Category Archives: Street Art

Street Art on Cars: “Lamest of Lame Sauce” or “Coolest Thing Ever”?

Artist Kenny Scharf is, as Ron Burgundy might say, kind of a big deal. Actually he really is a big deal. His artwork has appeared in the streets and on the walls of galleries and museums worldwide in a career that has spanned nearly four decades.

Scharf has got an iconic body of work, mostly paintings of often contorted retro-futuristic comic heads and faces in a style like those of 1960’s-era Hanna-Barbera cartoons “The Jetsons” and “The Flinstones.”

We’ve documented some his artwork over the years, from the streets of NYC to a recent exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (another example here and here).

Now his artwork is also appearing on a late model Honda Fit in the greater LA metro area. LA being LA, that Honda is most likely crawling at 10 miles-per-hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a SoCal freeway right now.

Artwork on cars has always left a funny taste in our mouth. When we say “artwork,” we’re not talking about the kind of decorative flourishes of paint and decals that adorn classic cars, low riders, racing cars or hot rods. That shit is legit.  It’s for the car. It’s part of the car as an expression of the car’s owner in service of the vehicle’s style. It’s decorative and artful and a craft that is a byproduct of car culture itself.

No, what we’re talking about here is when an artist that has nothing to do with cars puts their artwork on a moving vehicle, merely using the car as a canvas on wheels. Sometimes it works amazingly well and can stop us in our tracks and put a smile on our face. And sometimes it doesn’t and we’re recoiling from the sight.

In other words, it can be really lame. In fact it can be the lamest of lame sauce. (That’s pretty fucking lame!) Or it can be the coolest thing E-V-E-R. 

Kenny’s artwork has never resonated with us in a big way in terms of aesthetic, but we like his work and we’ve always enjoyed and appreciated his art and style. His site-specific painting on a massive set of walls in the lobby of the Hammer Museum was AWESOME.

But seeing one of his iconic painted cartoon faces blazing on the side of a compact sedan parked on a Santa Monica side street just kind of made us die a little bit inside. It felt cheap. It felt too easy. It looked lame.

Maybe it was simply a matter of aesthetic: That hue of red for the face on that electric-midnight blue of that car just doesn’t feel right.

That said, street art evovled on the foundation of graffiti art, which started the tradition of “getting up” large, visually stunning graffiti on trains and commercial trucks — perfect canvases for exposing one’s work to a large citywide audience in New York back in the day. At the time, many recoiled at the sight. It was considered an eyesore. Now, we look at it differently.

Yet, for Scharf, we expect the art to be more hallowed and to look better. That might be wrong, but it’s just us. So, Kenny, dude, step away from the vehicles, bro! Step away from the vehicles.

Of course, if that Honda Fit is Kenny’s, then everything we just said above doesn’t matter. What you do to your car is your business. And more power to ya’!

Ridiculously Instagram-Friendly Street Art by Kelsey Montague Causing Sidewalk Traffic Jams

The crowd of people snapping pix on the sidewalk along fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, in Los Angeles, seem for a moment like the scrum of paparazzi feasting on the presence of a mid-level Kardashian exiting the Chateau Marmont Hotel on a tipsy Friday night. But this is not the case.

All these folks, with their iPhones held aloft, dangerously stepping backward a few paces into the street and the path of oncoming vehicles, holding up sidewalk foot traffic, are taking pix of a piece of hyper-Instagramable street art by the artist Kelsey Montague. The artwork is beautiful and worth the pic, for sure.

Part of its appeal though is less aesthetic and more for the pure visual gimmick. For many, the allure is to be photographed standing in front of the artwork, positioned carefully between the two “wings.” So it looks like they have wings! Get it? Aaaaahh! So cuuuuuuuuuuuute!

The flow of moneyed (and/or credit-card debt laden) hipsters and tourists navigating the narrow pavement on this stretch of Abbot Kinney slows to a crawl as people pause to take photos or try to not accidentally photo-bomb somebody’s pic by walking into frame. There’s a bit of polite if determined jostling that goes on. It amounts to a kind of ephemeral, accidental choreography that, coupled with all the casual apologies, can be more mesmerizing to view than the artwork itself.

Meanwhile, cars slow down on the already tortoise-paced boulevard. Somebody driving by in a douchey banana-yellow Porsche 911 convertible audibly laments about “Fucking Millennials!” and a 30-something couple pushing a double-wide Bugaboo baby stroller, frustrated but sheepish, try their best to thread their way through the masses on the sidewalk.

The mural is in keeping with a series of “What Lifts You”  (#whatliftsyou, of course) paintings of butterfly-like wings Montague has been creating for years on walls all over the world. It’s become the thing she’s known for.

These detailed paintings are comprised largely of imagery drawn from the natural world, an assortment of flowers and leaves fashioned into the shape of wings. On the streetscape, it adds a wonderful touch of beauty and whimsy, turning yet another small patch of the world into an Instagram set piece.

(By the way, if you’re wondering how there’s nobody in the photo above, we took our pic on a slow Monday evening in the hot nano-sec between passersby. Luck. #blessed AF!) 

Shocking: Street Art is Possibly Portrait of Late Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein

We recently stumbled upon some awesome street art work (see pic below) by the talented “Decisions and Review.” The work was wheatpasted in a back-alley (is there any other kind?) in the recently hip-ish Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo.

Never heard of El Segundo? Well, let us fill you in. It’s a respectable residential hamlet famous for being geographically surrounded by aerospace industry, oil fields, power plants, and LAX, as well as being the occasional location of ’90s-era rappers leaving behind their wallets.

There’s not a lot of street art in quiet, solidly middle-working-to-middle-hipster class “ELS,” or “the Gundo,” as some feral cafe-running locals like to call the place. So imagine our surprise to see some 100% Grade-A street art, the kind you see every five feet in NYC’s Lower East Side, in his staid LA burb.

But we’re burying the lede here: The street artwork in question, at first glance, looks like a colorful portrait of the late and notorious Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Now, why would anybody want to do that?” you ask, red-faced and exasperated. Well, chill your fucking jets, ok! It’s not a portrait of Saddam Hussein! It’s somebody else.

Who? Well, we don’t know. But it’s not Saddam! Look closely at the photo … The dude is playing an acoustic  guitar. Like when did you EVER see an Iraqi dictator strumming 12-bar blues on a six-string Gibson? You cool now? 

Anyway, massive shouts to Decisions and Review for all their beautiful work. Check ’em.

Breaking: Cats Like Espresso Too!

It’s all starting to make sense now. Upon seeing this cute stencil street art of a feline sipping from a coffee cup, a critical observation came sharply into focus: Cats drink coffee, too! Just like us humans!!! OMG! It explains sooooooo much about cats, doesn’t it?

And it may be that they just don’t merely drink coffee. They well may be discerning third-wave connoisseurs of the stuff, who if they had their say in the matter would order up a $16.00 cup of premium Yemeni Port of Mokha-branded coffee from the nearest Blue Bottle. Gee, that’s kind of awesome.

But we may be way overthinking this. Maybe it’s not about the coffee at all. Maybe it’s really about the the milk in the coffee. Uh … cats like milk, right? Ok, shit! Nothing makes sense anymore. Forget everything about cats liking coffee.