Herakut Hits “The Wall Along Wilshire”

Herakut, "Good Can Come From Bad Can Come From Good" (Complete)

The Wende Museum has been doing some very interesting things lately, including the creation of an outdoor gallery wall (complete with framed work) on Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles, but its current project on Wilshire looks to be the most intriguing yet.

Now standing directly across the street from LACMA are several weathered sections of the concrete Berlin Wall. “The Wall Along Wilshire” is part of “The Wall Project,” the museum’s ongoing cultural history program.

For the front of the wall, the artists paired with Thierry Noir (one of the first artists to paint the Wall in 1984) were Kent Twitchell, Farrah Karapetian, and Marie Astrid Gonzalez. Yet, the museum also saw fit to invite several street artists to paint the back of the sectionals, asking Herakut, RETNA, and D*face to do the honors. It is expected that the other street artists will start Thursday or Friday evening, but Herakut have already completed their work.

I arrived last night when they had just finishing painting. One half of Herakut, Jasmin Siddiqui (Hera) explained that the Wall holds a very special significance for Herakut, not just because they are from Germany, but because she grew up in the West, while her partner, Falk Lehmann (Akut), grew up in the East.

“It’s amazing how small it looks now,” Jasmin said as she surveyed their work, “and it’s hard to imagine it kept so many people apart.”

Their piece on the left-most sectional, “Good Can Come From Bad Comes From Good,” was informed by the transformative circularity of history, and features two pregnant women crouched together in a yin-yang position. Their piece on the right-most sectional, “We Are All Just Kids, Right?” depicts a thin schoolboy tapering into a teddy-bear-like black and green shadow. Both showcase the dark, illustrative quality of their work, and are all the more poignant given the history of the material they are painted on.

“The Wall Along Wilshire” will be in front of 5900 Wilshire until November 13, 2011, where a private reception will be held with the artists from 1 to 4 p.m. After that, the sectionals of the Wall will shift to The Wende Museum’s permanent collection at 5741 Buckingham Parkway, Suite E, Culver City, CA 90230.

Herakut, "Good Can Come From Bad Can Come From Good" (Yang, Phase 1)
Herakut, "Good Can Come From Bad Can Come From Good" (Yang, Complete)
Herakut, "Good Can Come From Bad Can Come From Good" (Yin, Phase 1)
Herakut, "Good Can Come From Bad Can Come From Good" (Yin, Complete)
Herakut, "We Are All Just Kids, Right?" (Boy)
Herakut, "We Are All Just Kids, Right?" (Shadow)

Photos by Ryan Gattis

Paul Insect – Triptease Revue Opens at Post No Bills

Paul Insect, Left Wall Print Line-up

As RJ mentioned a bit ago, Paul Insect has a new show in Los Angeles. A lot of care went into hanging and lighting this one, with the bulk of the work focusing on thematically-appropriate low light and dedicated spots on the pieces to highlight Insect’s bold colors. That being said, the darkest part of the gallery seemed to be the biggest draw, as visitors lingered around the Peep Show Box located in the middle of the room for a chance to peek through the lens. “Triptease Review” runs through December 1st at Post No Bills: 1103 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, CA 90291.

Front of House at Post No Bills
Paul Insect, Right Wall (Back)
Paul Insect, Right Wall (Front Partition)
Paul Insect, Right Wall (Front)
Paul Insect, Interior of Peep Show Box

Photos by Ryan Gattis

Gajin Fujita’s “Made In L.A.”

"Roof Top" (2010) by Gajin Fujita, 5 Panels

It took nearly two years for Gajin Fujita to create work for “Made in L.A.” at the L.A. Louver recently, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Hailing from Boyle Heights, Fujita mixes elements of his Japanese heritage with the cultural influences he absorbed growing up in East Los Angeles as a member of K2S. His new pieces consist mainly of three structural layers. The bottom-most layers usually feature extensive use of gold, white gold, and platinum leaf; often, he uses repeating squares in background design much like those seen in hinged-screen (byōbu) painting. The second layer consists of tagging or throw-ups, though occasionally these will make their way to the top layer as a title, and will share the piece with two-dimensional characters (reminiscent of ukiyo-e) from Japanese history and mythology. Of these, samurai feature most prominently.

At times, Fujita uses this second-layer lettering to stand-in for the chaos of battle, as in “East vs. West,” yet he never allows the graffiti to overwhelm–or even become–the main focus of any piece. His third-layer characters are always foregrounded, and it has to be said that the use of textile details (particularly the flow of the kimono in “Fearless”) has been elevated from his previous work: where a print might have been repeated from head-to-toe in the past (as in “Fatal Match”, 2006), regardless of how the fabric might have been sitting on the character.

Fujita’s compositional style has grown as well. His one-panel pieces (“Fearless” and “Loyal”) use a similarly cropped frame to 2007’s “Loca”, but also utilize larger, more active characters, and a more dynamic color scheme–particularly with the strong primary colors of red and blue in each, as well as the patterned title lettering. The style used for “Fear” in “Fearless” appears to be an homage to local artist RISK.

Interestingly, Fujita’s two-frame pieces (“Dynamic Duo” and “Getting Harey”) are guided by the diagonalization of the leafing in the background layers. In both cases, the rectangles have been turned on their ends to highlight the action. In “Dynamic Duo,” only four rectangles are preferred, drawing one’s eye to the center point, where the hero sits astride a tiger. This same technique is employed for different reasons in “Getting Harey,” where the smaller tiling guides one’s eye from the woman’s face, down the spear, and to the rabbits in the lower left corner.

Perhaps it’s easy to write Fujita’s work off as simple juxtaposition of graffiti and classical art. It’s true that these aren’t so much harmonious pieces as collisions of different styles and cultures, but it would seem that is precisely Fujita’s point, and precisely the type of environment that multi-ethnic neighborhoods in Los Angeles (as well as everywhere else) foster. Yet it’s also worth pointing out that these pieces don’t just feature Japanese imagery and predominantly Chicano-inspired lettering styles, but the pervasive use of the English language as well. As a result, these visual mash-ups don’t just comment on cultural influences, but also on how well the preservation of the ancient can fit with the present in an entirely new context–which is something all transplanted people, regardless of background, must learn to navigate in a new place.

“Made In L.A.” shows through November 12th at L.A. Louver, 45 North Venice Boulevard, Venice, California 90291. See it with your own eyes if you can. These pieces are far more impressive in person than they are in photographs.

"Fearless" (2009) by Gajin Fujita
"Loyal" (2010) by Gajin Fujita
"East vs. West" (2010) by Gajin Fujita, 12 Panels
"Dynamic Duo" (2009) by Gajin Fujita, 2 Panels
"Getting Harey" (2011) by Gajin Fujita, 2 Panels

Photos by Ryan Gattis

Miami Preview

Corey Helford Gallery recently ran a one-night pop-up preview of its Art Basel offerings. The show featured D*face, Pure Evil, Buff Monster, Hush, Michael Mararian, Nick Walker, Eine, Risk, and Kukula. CHG hosts new works from Ron English on November 19th.

Pure Evil, TL: "Carlo Ponti's Nightmare" Yellow, TR: "Pink Lips Jackie", LL: "Pink Liz", LR: "Roman Polanski's Nightmare" Chrome
D*face, Flutterdies (All)
D*face, "Flutterdies - Set of 9, w/ Creme Skull"
D*face, "Flutterdies - Single Creme, Black & Rust"

Photos by Ryan Gattis

2 of Amerikas Most Wanted

Interior Mural

As RJ mentioned a while back, the Neck Face/Fuck This Life show opened at New Image Art on September 18th, a few doors down from its old location.

The new space is deep and somewhat narrow, and feels a bit like being in a giant service hallway. Up the right wall, Neck Face’s work progressed from sketches to ink and gouache, while the left wall included the show’s mural, a series of Fuck This Life’s collages, and two large collaborative pieces.

Ranging from playful (a piece featuring wigged and rouged demons) to ultra-grime (a skeleton peppering a grave with feces and a demon vomiting colorful chunks into a toilet), Neck Face’s pieces delivered the skeletons and demons aesthetic that owes much to heavy metal–with plenty of pentagrams to spare, and even a detailed disemboweling piece–but what I particularly liked about Neck Face’s demons was his attention to detail in their tattoos.

The artist seemed to be suggesting that humans can be demons as well (or at least act that way from time to time), and although this isn’t an earth-shaking statement, it did add another layer of a meaning to a series of pieces that read like one-frame cartoons and featured a few dull jokes, like the exchange in “Untitled 7”.

Having only previously seen his lines in aerosol, I was impressed by Neck Face’s purposeful chaos in his sketches, especially in “Untitled 2”. The heavy charcoal mixed with scraggly fissure-lines of pencil skillfully evokes a creeping decay.

For his part, Fuck This Life created a series of rectangular collage works on white backgrounds with layouts reminiscent of Internet image searches. The artist could easily have created these by digital means, but the smaller images were clearly cut from newspapers and glossy magazines, and had a zine-like feel as a result.

The imagery most frequently tackled in each collage revolved around sex and death, with occasional appearances by hip-hop icons (Jay-Z, Chuck D, Little Wayne), celebrities (mostly women), and the odd transformation sequence from film or television (e.g. Bruce Banner becoming The Incredible Hulk or Michael Jackson becoming a zombie from the “Thriller” video). When mixed in this way, it was easy to wonder what kind of search word (or words) could create each grouping.

The two collaborative pieces were the most interesting part of the show. Done on square board, each featured Fuck This Life’s collage work, Neck Face’s character sketches, spray paint, and deliberate burn marks. “Lights Out!!!” was the stronger of the two.

The series of portraits that anchors its lower right corner–and rises up the right edge with Neck Face’s signature, hairy-clawed hand–appeared to be still frames of security camera footage (the lone color image in this grouping appears to show a defenseless man getting punched in the back of the head), mugshots, and police sketches.

This grouping was unsettling enough on its own, but when surrounded by Neck Face’s trademark imagery, it seemed as though both artists were unified in pursuing a visual representation of evil. The combination truly worked. It was haunting stuff and the highlight of the show.

Yet, I couldn’t help thinking that–rather than relating to the artists–this was a better expression of “Amerikas Most Wanted” in the show’s title, and perhaps even a missed opportunity for a stronger overall concept.

Neck Face/Fuck This Life, “2 of Amerikas Most Wanted”, runs through October 14th at New Image Art, 7920 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046.

Neck Face, "Untitled 11"
Neck Face, "I Shit On Your Grave" & "Wrong Lamp Little Nigga"
Neck Face, "You Look Like I Need Another Drink" (detail)
Neck Face, "Untitled 7"
Neck Face, "Untitled 2" (detail)
Fuck This Life, "Untitled 8"
Neck Face x Fuck This Life, "Lights Out!!!"
Neck Face x Fuck This Life, "Lights Out!!!" (detail)

Photos by Ryan Gattis