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.
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.
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.
“Now I’m Going to Tell You Everything” is the title of this site-mural at the recently opened Institute of Contemporary Art, or ICA, in Los Angeles. The painting is by L.A.-based artist Sarah Cain, and it fills what otherwise might be an unremarkable empty dead space in an exterior courtyard in an unremarkable strip of anonymous industrial buildings in the city’s Arts District. The ICA (the renamed and relocated former Santa Monica Museum of Art) re-makes the space, makes it “remarkable” as does Cain’s massive and energetic mural. The artwork is best viewed in the early daylight hours when the sun directly illuminates it and supercharges the colors.
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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.
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.