Tag Archives: la street art

IS TAKASHI MURAKAMI ON DRUGS?

This massive hanging canvas by Takashi Murakami is like nothing else the Japanese artist has exhibited before or that we’ve seen from any contemporary artist. It’s a painting on an epic scale and largely characteristic of Murakami’s 2D style except for elements of graffiti art and tags visually woven into the composition. The painting is two-sided. In that sense, it’s like two paintings on a single canvas, each side different in tone from the opposite side. The artwork is hanging in a way that forms a semi-circle and a kind of alcove for the viewer. As Murakami’s artwork goes, this is distinct vision, a nightmare, strangely compelling and stunning, where the artist’s usual visual grammar and symbolism has been put through a filter, as it rendered in a fever dream or a drug-induced state. In any case, it’s a masterpiece. It’s currently on view at the blockbuster Beyond the Streets exhibition in Los Angeles.

STARSTRUCK: ALEC’S INEVITABLE MARILYN MONROE MURAL

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.

SHEPARD FAIREY IS EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE

We were in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, stopping by a popular espresso bar for a quick coffee, driving around and around looking for a spot to park when there it was staring at us: A poster by artist Shepard Fairey. A little later, on a recent visit to the Arts District in L.A. to grab a quick lunch, again while driving around  the block over and over again seeking an open parking space, there we found another Fairey artwork, its gaze bearing down on us. This past weekend, we drove into the Sawtelle area (a.k.a., “Little Osaka”) of Los Angeles on a mission to pick up some boba teas, and there, yet again, was another of Shepard’s iconic red-black-and-white portraits, a wheat-paste poster on a utility box, staring at us. Shepard Fairey, you’re everywhere. Why can’t we quit you, godammit!

STREETSY: ARTWORK ON A BILLBOARD – WHEN CAPITALISM AND ART MAKE A BABY

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.

SO EXTRA! SUPER STREETSY ALL-STAR STREET ART

Talk about piling on. We snapped this pic in the back alley (are there other kinds?) than runs behind row of fashionable shops on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Los Angeles. It shows mostly wheat-paste street art (a.k.a., “wheaties”) by what appears different artists.

It’s a real mix of content and subject matter and visual styles. There’s a half-ripped yellow poster of a lone eye looking out at you. There’s a wheatie image of a man wearing a tie  — a “businessman,” perhaps — with his hand on his forehead as if weeping or experiencing a massive migraine headache. Perhaps he’s a day trader who has just lost everything.

There’s a small cut-out of a silhouetted person riding a bicycle through the sky with a loaded basket — the iconic image from the film “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” There’s a poster of some comically drawn sketchy dude wearing a beanie and smoking something, maybe a spliff.

These paste-ups are across a set of doors to a storage cabinets covered in painted graffiti that appears as weathered abstract lines. We love stuff like this, when a spot gets bombed with a lot of different piece or artwork

STREETSY: IS NEW BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTO STREET ART BY JR OR JR WANNABE?

Hey, you know JR, right? The French street artist who has become something of a worldwide phenom over the past decade?

Yes, that JR. The one who takes black-and-white photos of people, their faces, close-ups of their eyes and mouths, and then prints them up at massive, mega-blown-up scale and wheat-pastes them on the sides of entire buildings, on the roofs of houses and on the sides of trains.

Yes, that’s the JR we’re talking about.

Well, that JR is the subject of some local speculation with regards to a recent work of street art that appeared on fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice Beach. See pic above.

Or, rather, the speculation is about who put up this street art. It has all the makings of “a JR.” But is it? Is it some other artist? Is it a JR wannabe? A copycat?

And who is the subject of this artwork? Is it, as one commenter on our Instagram feed asked, a photo of octagenarian French filmmaker Agnes Varda?  The face, the eyes and the haircut — especially the haircut — have all the makings of Varda.

These are questions we want answers to, savvy reader. And we have answers! 

The art was put there by JR (or by his assistants / minions / 3rd-party contractor). The image is of Agnes Varda. It’s placement and timing are not an accident.

As some of you savvy readers may already well be aware, JR and Varda collaborated on a documentary film project called “Faces Places.” The film was a critical success and garnered a 2018 Academy Award nomination. The street artwork appeared around the time of the Awards ceremonies in March, which, of course, are held each year in Los Angeles. Varda herself was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy last year.

So there you have it.

(Uh, BTW, follow us on Instagram! We’re @globalgraphica )

NEEDS: A PALM TREE WEARING SUNGLASSES, RIDING A SKATEBOARD

Needs. We all have them. And who doesn’t need a “shady palm.” That is, a palm that just doesn’t provide shade, but wears shades. A palm tree that sports sunglasses. 

What more could one want? Well, sun-protection eyewear aside, we need a palm tree that can handle a skateboard. A palm that can shred the boardwalk and the skate park.

This small, cartoony wheat-paste street art is a cute visual pun. The artist is New York City-based artist Raddington Falls, a.k.a., “RAD.” Find “Shady Palm” on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Los Angeles.

Check out more of RAD’s work on this website.

PUMPIN’: STREET ART WITH LOTS OF HEART

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.)

UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS: AWESOME “BUMBLE BEE LOVES YOU” INVADES OFFICE

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.

 

CITY LIFE: BIRD MURAL RUINS OTHERWISE COLD, SLEEK, OVERPRICED MINIMALIST CONDO & PERFECTIONIST LIFESTYLE

Text by Van Corsa

Imagine. You’ve made it. Went to school. Got a job in a tech start-up. Paid off your student debt. Moved to Los Angeles. L.A. Then you got a tech job at another start-up. In Venice, a.k.a., “Silicon Beach.”

That start-up made an app and it got big real fast. You made a shitload of money. Then you MOVED to Venice. Rents insane. Then you BOUGHT in Venice. You found a condo around the corner from fashionable, beautiful and gentrified Abbot Kinney Blvd. Prime real estate. Primo location, bro! Expensive.

This condo, it wasn’t just any condo. Because you’re not just any Silicon Beach scrote. You’re not just another sartorially-challenged techie slacking in basic, comfortable fashion. You are more than just a dude with a closet full of hoodies and New Balance sneakers and the full quiver of video game consoles.

Continue reading

NOSTALGIA: STREET ART HAS NO SHAME FOR MEMORY LANE

The British jazz-pop singer Sade can be counted in the Pantheon of 1980s music icons. Her music videos for songs like the “The Greatest Taboo” and “Smooth Operator” were a staple of MTV (back when MTV entire programming consisted of music videos). 

She is among several influential 1980s pop-cultural icons depicted in street art portraits by Los Angeles artist Alex Ali Gonzalez. This mural of Sade pictured here is in the Arts District near Downtown Los Angeles.

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TROPE-A-DOPE: STREET ART IMAGE OF DOG IN VENICE INSANELY UNORIGINAL (OR STREET-ART TROPES: A PRIMER)

There is street art. There are cliches. And there are street-art cliches (SAC). That said, we think “trope” is the better suited word here rather than the word “cliche.” So, “street-art trope.” (SAT, of course). There are street art tropes! There is, dare we use the term, “tropey” street art. There we said it.

“What are some of these street-art tropes?” you ask, savvy reader? That’s a fair question, if ever there was. There are a few broad categories and types. But the most obvious type, if most flagrant, is the use of cheery pop-cultural icons, often cartoon characters, juxtaposed with some very un-cheery and serious imagery, like a gun.

There’s practically a formula matrix you can follow to create this kind of street art. For example … Continue reading

OBEY: THE WABI SABI OF OLD SHEPARD FAIREY STREET ART POSTERS

Like a vintage wine, some street art ages remarkably well. Others not so well.

Take for example most wheat-paste street art posters like the one pictured here in Venice, Los Angeles, by artist Shepard Fairey (see all Shepard Fairey posts). It’s classic Fairey. 

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. 

PINKISH: PORTRAIT OF ROBED ELEPHANT-HUMAN STREET ART BEFUDDLES PASSERSBY

Street art often provides many unanswered questions, not only about the artwork itself, but also who created it. There’s seldom clear authorship for most street art and usually no contextual information about the artwork or artist in the way there is for in a museum of gallery. That can make it difficult to attribute the artist or read the artwork, though that’s also part of the allure of street art. Continue reading

TECHNOLOGY: STREET ARTWORK LITERALLY “PHONY”

An electric utility box along Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, has been painted as an old-school public pay telephone. See pic below.

From a distance you might be fooled into thinking you were spying a real pay phone, albeit a questionably larger-than-life-size one. But, of course, it’s fake, a phony — literally a “phony” in the original sense of the word.

The painting is cartoon-like, but accurate in its rendering of the design and details of the phone. The real public pay phones were once common in cities around the United States, but have all but completely disappeared from American life.

The artwork is a cute and clever reminder of how quickly technology has changed and how physically pervasive and visible it can be in our lives.

As by-product of the explosive growth and adoption of cellphones, and later smartphones, over the past two decades is the erasure of pay phones from the urban landscape.

CULT OF KAWAII: WHEN STREET ART “GETS CUTE” WE ALL SUFFER

 

Look, savvy reader! Look at the photo above!

See that tiny wheat-pasted street artwork of a poodle-like canine waltzing down the pavement seeming to give zero fucks but in a totally oblivious, entitled way?

Ahhhhh …. cuuuuuuuuute, right?!?!? 

Look again, look carefully. Is that a dollop of poop nonchalantly emanating from the butt of this kawaii canine? It is! It must be! Wow, this cartoon pup really does give zero fucks.

Ahhhhh …. cuuuuuuuuute, right?

Well, we’re not buying it. This is just a little too cute (or as Japanese high-school girls love to squeal: Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii”). And frankly this is even a little too cute for the Los Angeles Arts District where this pic was snapped.

Sure, the poop is a touch of insouciance and whimsy we can appreciate here at Global Graphica. Clearly this artwork was something not executed without thought. (Notice how that dollop of poop has its own shadow!!!!)

And we like how the artwork was posted at the eye level of a small rodent. (The artwork actually is the size of a small rodent — less than a foot long. It shows that the artist is, as corporate HR specialists like to say, “detail oriented.”

That aside, this kind of cuteness is too easy and a kind of artistic crutch. We want our street art to be bolder, grittier, heavier, more epic, aesthetically nuanced and more serious about message.

What is this artwork trying to say? Pick up your dog’s shit? That everybody has to poop, even the most beautiful and haughty little bitches? (For the record, the word “bitches” is used here in the scientific sense to mean “gender-female dog,” and not used in the often misogynistic hip-hop sense).

With this kind of cute, we suffer. You, us, everybody — even the artist — suffers. Yes, the struggle is real.

 

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE: STENCIL STREET ART ATTEMPTS WRY SOCIAL COMMENTARY ON SMARTPHONE USE

 

We were were recently walking down the street in the Arts District near Downtown Los Angeles (a.k.a., DTLA).

We were upbeat, bright-eyed, walking with a spring in our step, as one might say, practically skipping along the pavement and doing this all while scrolling through the email inbox on our battered iPhone, firmly en-gripped in our right hand. (BTW, we just made up that word “en-gripped,” which we think perfectly captures the idea of holding a phone while walking.)

That’s when we almost didn’t notice the nearly life-size stenciled silhouette of a lean, badly-postured man on the sidewalk ahead of us. See pic above.

This figure was staring down at his smartphone (sure, probably an iPhone, but, you never know, it could be a Droid — you’d be surprised sometimes that there are actually some non-iPhone smartphone users out there — Yes, even in the Arts District! Amazing, we know).

He seemed so engaged with his smartphone that he was missing out on all the stuff going on around him on the street. He was missing out on life, on living, and stuff that didn’t involve touch-screens and apps icons and likes and getting things done and working remotely and sending important work-related messages and viewing urgent texts about deadlines and budgets.

He was missing out on important non-important stuff, like missing out on all the awesome street art all around.

We took a pic of this.

Then we went back to scrolling through the email inbox on our battered iPhone and went on our merry way.