The artist ALEC has made a career of street art and massive murals with images of pop-culture icons and celebrities from New York City to far-flung corners like Bali, Indonesia. It’s fitting — and perhaps inevitable — that in the heart of Hollywood he would paint a mural of legendary film actress Marilyn Monroe, a cinematic icons who best represents the spectrum of Hollywood fame, glitz and glamour, and ultimately tragedy.
Hey, you! Yes, YOU! You, the savvy reader of this blog. In case you did not know it, you are an artist!
Well, to clarify, if you aren’t, then you can be. Instantly! Yes, INSTANTLY! What if we were to say that you can be an artist within minutes, if not seconds?
You don’t believe us. Well, let’s a try a little experimental exercise in art production. You have a pair of sneakers, yes? (If you don’t, that’s fine — for this exercise any type of footwear will suffice.) Ok, now grab those sneakers or loafers or mules or flips-flops or whatever, in fact grab a few pairs, as many as you can muster up really. Got ‘em? Great!
Now find some empty floor space, preferably bleached hardwood floor space and pick a spot near a wall, preferably a white wall. Place those pairs of shoes there, and by “place” we mean just dump the shoes on the floor and leave these as they lie when dropped.
And voila, you, savvy ready, have just created a work of art. In fact, it’s a conceptual artwork. It’s kind of like the artwork titled “Skin” by the awesome Moroccan artist Latifa Echakhch pictured in this post. (It’s was recently on view as part of the wonderful and cheeky “Stories of Almost Everyone” exhibition of conceptual art at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.)
You see, you are an artist! (To be more precise, you are conceptual artist!) Great job!
The real artistry here is in the next step: Getting somebody to pay you for this artwork, or at least to devote exhibition space to it.
Of course, you can always just call the space you dropped those shoes a “gallery” and you’re now an artist with a gallery show. Look at you! You’ve come so far in just a few short minutes.
Capitalism and art. They’re not the best of friends. Sometimes they look at each other with roiling contempt. The fact is they need each other, albeit, to a point, and — deep down — they’re in love with one another, because each has something the other desperately wants: Money and cultural cachet. They help each other out in a symbiotic relationship that brings funding and artists together and makes culture happen on a grand scale.
Go into any major art institution and there are the plaques and signs on the walls and in the beautifully printed exhibition programs with the names of billionaire industrialists and entrepreneurs who have become art-world philanthropists, and see those names next the corporate sponsors and logos of the various companies — often Wall Street powerhouses and global Fortune 500 corporations — and the words “made possible by” or “with the generous support of.” At the major museums, at art fairs and events, that sponsorship and acknowledgement of support is par for the course.
Indeed, money makes the art world go around, though not necessarily art itself. The streets are a different matter. The very fact that street art is often illicit and seen “in the streets” is because there is no financial support or patronage or sanctioned art space for that work. Street art largely bypasses the gatekeepers, the curators, collectors, gallerists, and financial patrons. Granted, that the work of many street artists does not have a home in the galleries and museums is often because most street art is not great. Really, it’s mostly kind of lazy and sucky. From an art world perspective, it doesn’t warrant being on a gallery wall unless it is really great or there is at least the potential to co-opt it for financial gain or cultural profit in doing so. And if it is really great, it often only works in the context of the street. Once it’s on a gallery wall, most street art loses part of what made it special in the first place. It loses that context and its inherent subversiveness, aside from whatever its content or message may be. In any event, capitalism is not in a direct agreement or relationship with street art.
But sometimes artwork that is on the street is in a direct relationship with commercial patronage, for example, when it’s commissioned and given a dedicated commercial space well-suited for exhibiting the artwork. An advertising billboard is such a space, and it’s the location of the wondrous and evocative images of Taiwanese artist James Jean, whose painting “Schrodinger’s Kitten Rescue” has been rendered on a large billboard above in the Sawtelle neighborhood (a.k.a., Little Osaka) of Los Angeles. Here capitalism and art have come together to make a cultural baby, a creator’s commercial-free vision imposed on the urban landscape in what is otherwise a commercial-filled space.
We saw this cool street-artsy mural portrait of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in Santa Barbara, California, while visiting there this past Monday. Kusama is a major international art star who has blown up the past few years as blockbuster exhibitions of her artwork and installations have popped up in art museums around the world and collaborations with brands like Louis Vuitton have made her work more visible to a broader, global audience. That said, we were a bit surprised to see her portrait in a town like Santa Barbara. Which got us wondering, in 2018 have we reached “peak” Kusama? The answer is, yes. Maybe. If not this year, then perhaps next.
It’s quiz times once again, savvy readers! Look at these photos. Is this a Home Depot or an art museum?
If you said art museum, you are correct. The third photo in this post is the giveaway and the wall placard in the first photo is a clue that this is a gallery in an art museum.
But without that context, this could be a Home Depot or a Lowes or whichever American DIY home-improvement superstore chain you prefer.
These wooden objects are part of a series of sculptural works by the German artist Imi Knoebel titled “Vivit” and “Vivimus” and are part of the permanent collection of the Broad Museum of Art in Los Angeles.
This is brilliant. In this short promotional video for the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles, actor-comedians Will Ferrell and Joel McHale take a VIP tour of a conceptual-art exhibition at the museum with its curator. The exhibition is called “Stories of Almost Everyone.” Ferrell and McHale are funny as they’re introduced to various artworks, make comments, and ask questions. The larger gist of the video short is that contemporary — and especially conceptual art — and art museums can be approachable for everyone and are places to ask questions and start conversations about what you see, rather than feel intimidated or confused by the art.
We love coffee. You probably do too. But we REALLY love coffee. It’s actually kind of a problem, and, though we may try to curtail our consumption from time to time, we will probably never give it up. Caffeine is a drug.
This addiction has driven us to go above and beyond in seeking out good espresso. Over the past three or four years we’ve visited the cafes, coffee roasteries, and espresso bars of almost every significant purveyor of freshly brewed third-wave coffee in Los Angeles, New York, Amsterdam, and Tokyo.
In Los Angeles, one of the relatively newer players in the local coffee situation is Alfred Coffee. From its beginnings in L.A.’s fashionable Silver Lake neighborhood a few years ago, it has sprouted several branches.
The most recent outpost is in Beverly Hills and like the Silver Lake cafe, it’s decorated with a mural by British artist JGoldcrown and one of his “Lovewall” (a.k.a., “Bleeding Hearts”) murals. Goldcrown’s street art pieces have popped up all around the City of Angels in the past couple of years.
Goldcrown’s heart-filled street artworks can be found on buildings from Santa Monica and Venice on the the city’s beachy far west side, to the Valley, to Silver Lake and the Downtown Arts District on the east, and now in between, in one of the poshest neighborhoods in the world.
Each “Lovewall” is a rectangle of cartoony, roughly-drawn heart shapes in various colors. Some are outlines of hearts, others filled in. The effect is like that of a casual array of doodles scrawled out of boredom on a high-school student’s notebook.
These hearts are often on a white background, but recently the artist has created versions on a black background or with words written into the field of hearts. The new mural at the new Alfred Coffee in Beverly Hills is yet another variation. It’s on a pink background, which is the most evocative — and our favorite — color yet.
Goldcrown’s “Lovewall” murals are on the road to becoming iconic landmarks. In Beverly HIlls, it will make it easier to spot the new Alfred Coffee as you navigate Santa Monica Blvd. traffic in search of a stylish flat white with almond milk and an extra shot of espresso. Like we need that extra shot. (We do.)
We stumbled upon this commissioned mural by the Los Angeles-based artist who goes by the moniker “Bumble Bee Loves You” in the corporate office space for an anonymous entertainment/film production company near West Hollywood.
Artist Zoe Leonard’s 2016 public art project under the Standard Hotel building on the High Line in New York City was a powerful political statement. It’s titled “I Want a President” and it was originally created in the 1990s in response to that era’s political climate in NYC. It was installed as a massive page of text on the High Line to coincide with the 2016 presidential election and 2017 inauguration of the Trump presidency. But it is all the more potent and relevant today in 2018 as it was a year ago or twenty years ago. Few artists so far have been able to voice the frustration, resistance and anger at the current states of governance and leadership in the U.S. in as captivating a way and on such a grand scale as this. Read the full text of the artwork via this PDF.
Artist Gustavo Viselner is a so-called “pixel artist,” and he’s brilliant. The artist has made a name for himself by creating retro videogame-style 8-bit images of memorable scenes from some of the most popular television programs of the U.S. peak-TV era, a.k.a., the current “golden age” of more quality TV shows than a person has time to watch. These include images from shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Stranger Things.” More images on his website.
This massive painting by Japan’s most successful and well-known contemporary artist Takashi Murakami is displayed in the primest spot of the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. It’s huge. It’s epic. It’s unmissable. Anyone entering the museum’s main galleries, where the core selections from the permanent collection are exhibited, will see it as they arrive from the lobby, whether they come via escalator, elevator or a stairway.
So exactly how big is this painting? And what’s it called? Continue reading
These paintings by artist Ellen Gallagher speak to us in deep, immediate, profound ways. The black abstractions of these canvases are beguiling in their darkness and textures. They change hue and tone as the viewer inches closer to the artwork and the reflection of light off the surface of oil paint brightens and reveals previously unseen layers of shape and color. These are on view at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Los Angeles’s Arts District. Another one of her “black” paintings is on display as part of the permanent collection of the Broad Museum a few blocks away in Downtown Los Angeles. The artwork pictured here is titled “Kapsalon Wonder.”
A few months ago we posted on the phenomena of shops and restaurants upgrading their space with the simple act of adding a surfboard as decorative object or artwork to that space. Many pix were included in the post as examples of this trend. This past weekend we discovered yet another example at a casual seafood restaurant in Newport Beach, California called Bear Flag (killer fish tacos, btw). There, mounted on the wall, is a beautiful, vintage single-fin longboard surfboard with the restaurant’s California-inspired Bear Flag logo laminated onto the bottom of the board.
The unthinkable has happened. Yes, savvy reader, bona fide post-modern rockstar artist and art-world darling Jeff Koons has collaborated with major, global luxury brand Louis Vuitton, installing his iconic stainless-steel inflatable-bunny “sculptural object” titled “Rabbit” in the brand’s boutique display windows alongside special-made stainless-steel balloon versions of the LV logo. Pictured here is his studio’s handiwork as it currently appears in the display window of a store in Newport Beach, California.
Ahh … And with that we say “Good-bye 2017! Hello, 2018! Happy New Year!”
The current mural at the “Bowery Wall” (a.k.a., the “Deitch Wall”) in downtown New York City is an epic, colorful composition of 3D block letters and abstract 2D graphical shapes.
The massive painting is by the artist Lakwena and its message “Lift you higher” could be describing the artwork itself. It’s a bright, aesthetically cheery artwork that has all the right pleasure-centering amounts of visual flavor crystals added to it.
There’s really no excuse for this. Unless it’s a college dormitory or your parents’ basement or the living room of a pro skater or the place of business for somebody connected to the skateboarding industry (and by extension the surf industry), skateboards as decorative wall art is no bueno, brah!
You see, savvy reader, once you’re past a certain age and a certain living circumstance (i.e., you’ve moved out of your college dorm room or parents’ basement into your own apartment or one-bedroom condo) your choice of decor and artwork should show that you’re adulting, and we mean adulting hard! Continue reading
Like a vintage wine, some street art ages remarkably well. Others not so well.
But it’s showing its age. It’s worn, fading, and a little tattered from the elements. Although the physical integrity of artwork has degraded, it’s actually made the poster more interesting in a way that’s similar to the way patination on a bronze statue gives it more character or the way a pair of Japanese RPM selvedge denim jeans develop a distinct shape, fade and crease when worn everyday and left unwashed for a year.
Part of street art’s magic is that it’s ephemeral. It comes and goes. It disappears. And part of that ephemerality is seeing it age, bearing witness to its slow destruction.
As Fairey’s Venice Beach poster continues to come apart and fade, it’s takes on a new aesthetic. It becomes more beautiful as it degrades and loses the perfection of it’s original state. The artwork is humbled by the elements and by time. Yet it remains a remarkable image and retains the unconventional nature inherent in art that’s “in the streets.”
Looking at it this way is like the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. And yet the core image persists on the landscape, provoking thought , remaining a subject of appreciation.
Artist Glenn Ligon‘s “Double America 2” is among the most profound works of contemporary American art, and it is profoundly American. It’s absolutely brilliant.
The artwork can read on several levels. At its core is the idea of there being two different Americas or American experiences largely due to race, and, more pointedly, to racism, discrimination and its place in the nation’s history.
It points to the psychology of identity, the sense of black and white, rich and poor, haves and have-nots, exterior image and interior reality, something bright — and brightly lit — and ideal versus something gravely wrong, upside down, dark and flickering.
We’ve seen this artwork several times over the years elsewhere in museums around the U.S. and the world. We recently viewed it at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles (pictured here). It’s the first time we’ve seen Ligon’s artwork since the U.S. Presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump, an event that brought the startling breadth of the nation’s cultural, economic, racial and political divides into the sharpest focus.
“Double America 2” seems a perfectly pointed and symbolic visual meme for the times, for the condition of the United States in the politically divisive, ugly “Trump Era.”