Murals of iconic Disney cartoon character Minnie Mouse recently have been popping up at locations of the hip Alfred Coffee in Los Angeles. The one pictured here is at the third-wave coffee chain’s Studio City cafe. Minnie is shown standing in a cloud of polka dots, for which she is known. At her heels is the hastag #rockthedots. The murals are part of a recent Disney promotional campaign and collaboration with various brands that strategically coincides with National Polka Dots Day (it’s real … who knew?!?!?).
These repeated black-and-white “Deface This” and “Not Norml” (sic) posters of new U.S. President Donald Trump are funny political commentary and an invitation to a form of participatory art and creative activism. We’ve being seeing these pop up around Los Angeles the past week or so. The ones pictured here were on a utility box on Sunset Blvd. in L.A.’s hip Silver Lake neighborhood.
Here’s another one of the many “Bleeding Hearts” murals in Los Angeles by British artist JGoldcrown’s also called “Lovewall.” The one pictured here is near trendy Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. The background color of these murals is usually white, and this one was until recently when it was repainted with a black background instead. Fresh.
This wheat-pasted street art of two dogs is awesomely colorful and cute. It’s also tiny, smaller than the palm of a hand. It’s miniature street art, which is cool. But it would be even cooler if it was the size of a small building, because the artwork itself is beautifu and could have such great impact at a larger scale. The artwork is in an alley behind Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Los Angeles.
When the late legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor appeared in the 1963 film classic “Cleopatra” in 1963, she unlikely never imagined that her likeness would appear as street art on a now hip stretch of Faifax Avenue in Hollywood. But so it is.
Film immortalizes. Street art, though usually ephemeral, has the power to do so, too, when photographed, now more than ever in the hyper image-capturing world thanks to the billions of us and our default digital habits via iPhones, Instagram and other social media.
This wheat-pasted artwork of Taylor will fade, be torn away or scraped off and disappear. But it has indelibly left itself in the memories of its viewers everywhere it appears whether on the streets of LA or as images saved across the global strata of devices and the cloud.
The artwork is signed by “Van” (no relation to the Van of this blog) and was put up on the window of an emptied retail space that has already been on the receiving end of the graffiti-tagging ritual that descends upon storefronts when a tenant leaves. The neighborhood is neither gritty nor overrun with graffiti, but given its hipster retail quotient (“HRQ”), it has become a home for an above-average volume of street art and, with it, the camptrail of graffiti art and sticker-bombed spaces.
This is due to an unusual confluence of Los Angeles geography, landmarks and neighboring institutions that draws an ideal demographic and market for style-centric retail and street art. At least a half-dozen shops catering to serious sneakerheads and street style sartorialists line both sides of Fairfax Avenue in a short segment between Melrose and Oakwood avenues. These include Crooks and Castles, Diamond Supply, Supreme and Hall of Fame.
The strip is also home to the legenday Canter’s Deli, a long-time late-night hangout for bands and entertainment industry types. Fairfax High School is here, too, where on school days thousands of students traffick in and out of the area.
At one end of the stretch is Melrose itself, one of LA’s most-established and fashionable shopping destinations for designer clothing, high-end and street. At the other end is CBS Television City, and a little further south, Farmers Market and the Grove. For those selling premium, limited edition Nikes and Addidas and complimenting these with hoodies and caps, the neighborhood became an epicenter for a market eager to buy their wares.
As for Elizabeth Taylor and Van’s artwork, she in her glorious, braided Cleopatra hairstyle looks fittingly contemporary. If women (or a dude, for that matter) walked out of the Supreme store with that hair and make-up, it would seem perfectly normal, just another of the myriad styles either intentionally or unwittingly drawing on and referencing pop cultural influences of the recent aughts and late Twentieth Century. Late 1970s disco culture tapped into the chic of the Egytpian-via-Hollywood braids look. It was part of a pornstar’s circa-early-1980’s look in the movie “Boogie Nights.”
For much of her early and middle career, Taylor was a beauty and style icon. She was also the subject of one of the world’s foremost and most famous artists of the post-modern pop-art era, Andy Warhol. Until her passing, she was Hollywood royalty, at the apex of the “A” list before if was even called that, relevant at a distance even long after she was no longer appearing in blockbuster movies and away from the limelight.
In a way then, Taylor is exactly right where she should be immortalized as street art.
The British artist Dean Stockton, a.k.a., D*Face, has developed one of the most recognizable and epic bodies of street art to grace the world’s urban landscapes. His work evolved from the a series of noteook doodles of weird, comic, anthropomorphic humaoid creatures. Then he started making stickers of this artwork, eventually moving on to the more familiar and popular street art medium of wheatpaste posters and, later, paintings, massive murals and sculptural objects. A prime example of one of these larger-than-life murals is the one pictured here in Culver City, in Los Angeles. It’s titled “Going Everywhere Fast” and can be found on the side of the Corey Helford Gallery on Washington Blvd.
DFace’s work reminds us a lot of the post-modern pop art of Roy Lichtenstein. The parallels in the graphical, comic style are unmissable. Where Lichtenstein found inspiration and material from the inky, pixel-dotted soap-opera comics of American newspapers of the 1950s and ’60s, Stockton’s style has the smoother look of the contemporary graphic novel and its richly-printed rendering of scanned drawings. Lichtenstein often made the texts of the comics a crticial part of the artwork. He included the characters’ short dialogues and internal monolgues that appeared as speech and thought bubbles in the comic. This added a dimension of irony, drama, commentary or amusement (sometime all at once) and gave deeper meaning to the visual. D*Face’s works, on the other hand, usually don’t have speech or thought bubbles. It is left to the viewer to imagine what the chacacters are thinking.
Some visual themes have emerged in DFace’s style. A lot of these recent murals features a man and a women, a couple with their relationship implied but unclear. There are cars or motrocycles included. Motion and speed are suggested in the compositions. The woman is a pale blond bombshell. A sad or worried expression is on her face. She displays freakish antler-like white wings sticking out from the sides of her head, which refers back to the charcaters of D*Face’s earliest drawings. The man is shown as slightly grotesque, his skin green like a Frankenstein and his face serious and etched with hard wrinkles.
The popular appeal of DFace’s artwork is obvious. It is an easy visual read, accessible and poignant. He has benefited from having his work exposed to an audience beyond the galleries and streets, beyond followers of contemporary art or street art scenes. Fans of American pop-punk band Blink-182 will recognize D*Face’s artwork on the cover of their recent 2016 album “California.”