by TOMMY JARRELL
Jake Merten and Rif Raf Giraffe have recently joined forces to collaborate on a new mural in East Hollywood. I guess the term “new” is relative, their mural was completed in January of this year and it’s titled Sono Tori, which I believe means “Those Birds,” when translated from Japanese into English.
About the Artists
Jake Merten is a Chicago native who currently resides in Los Angeles. He began his career as an artist in the summer of 2012 when he originally moved to the west coast. Since then, he has committed himself to making public murals, hand painted jackets, album art, and other works that exist in Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Honolulu, Miami, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and beyond. After sampling his formidable works of art it’s evident that anime, hip-hop, and fashion have all made profound impressions on his work. Many of his artworks feature characters inspired by Dragon Ball Z or pop culture, including David Bowie, Kate Moss, Phife Dawg, and Chance the Rapper.
Rif Raf Giraffe is also a street artist from the midwest, however, he hails from Kansas City. Rif Raf Giraffe’s work is remarkable in its own right; it has a tendency to be futuristic and is largely cartoonish in intriguingly surreal ways. His work frequently features robots, androids, athletes, superheroes, and animals that have large, bulbous eyes. His signature character, which recurs in many of his pieces, is a cartoon giraffe that has an abnormally short neck and white eyes. Rif Raf’s street art has a heavy-handed presence in his hometown of Kansas City, but he also has murals in Miami, St. Petersburg (Florida), and Los Angeles as well.
From looking at it for just a second it’s obvious that their collab is Hitchcockian in nature. The scene they’ve delivered clearly draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie, The Birds, but they’ve remixed it with their own anime-style and flair. There are dozens of birds, some represented as shadow forms and others that are more clearly defined with bright red eyes. They are all bearing down on a young blonde woman, who bears a passing resemblance to Melanie Daniels, inside of a Japanese phone booth. The glass facade of the phone booth has cracked in various places from where birds have crashed into it trying to attack her. From the bottom righthand corner of the mural, there’s a wave of mysterious, green ooze that is also encroaching on the sequestered and confused young lady.
Though this scene is haunting and breathes life into our most deeply held fears about birds, the way that Hitchcock’s film did in its day, its stylized, anime elements keep this mural deeply embedded in the realm of horrifying fantasy. The small details present in this painting like the rivets holding the phone booth’s frame together, and the rust beginning to form at its edges, lend this mural a level of realness that make it immersive.
When looking at this mural, its cohesiveness makes it nearly impossible to tell that this is a collaborative piece by two artist with their own distinctive styles. Their two visions have merged harmoniously into a single vision that we, as its consumers, will find both captivating and horrifying. This modern take on an iconic scene from Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller has reinvigorated an old idea with new life thanks to these two very talented artists.
Where can you find this piece of street art?
This mural is located in East Hollywood on Fountain Avenue in between Normandie Avenue and Mariposa. It's on south facing facade of Vaco Precision Inc.
by SERGIO GARCIA
D*Face is a London based street artist that has made an impression through his use of recurring punk, pop, and comic book imagery. As a teenager, D*Face created hand-drawn stickers to post around his hometown. Soon after, he began to expand his arsenal to include posters, stencils, and spray paint. Now, D*Face is the owner and curator of The Outside Institute, an art gallery in London that focuses on street art. Despite this, D*Face continues to embellish buildings with his art. And fortunately, Los Angeles hosts a few of his murals.
The Culver City neighborhood of Los Angeles is known for its many art galleries and artistic appeal, so it's only fitting that D*Face has a mural in this community. In Going Everywhere Fast, D*Face uses two characters that reoccur often in his work. There's a man on a cruiser-type motorcycle. He's wearing a black, leather motorcycle jacket, gloves, glasses, and has greased hair that invokes the ghost of James Dean. However, this isn’t a Hollywood star. His pale, green skin and sunken face inform us that he is a zombified, rockabilly punk. Preparing for their ride, a blonde woman holds on to him intimately, making the nature of their relationship evident. Like the man, however, she is no regular woman. Out of her head sprout two small wings. And even with this abnormality, she still maintains the appearance of a blonde, Hollywood bombshell. While it’s easy to miss, the woman also sheds a single tear. Is she in a state of melancholy thinking about what she is leaving behind? Or has something devastating just happened to her? Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that these two have stories to tell, and that their ride is just beginning.
This piece by D*Face fascinates me personally due to its heavy rockabilly, punk, and comic book influences. The rockabilly style of both of these characters appeals to a specific subculture and yet can be universally appreciated. At the same time, the style of his art is reminiscent of contemporary graphic novels while still retaining discernible punk influences. D*Face is incredibly skilled at taking such an eclectic mix of various subcultures and adding a Hollywood-type spin in order to create a mural that evidently belongs in Los Angeles.
Where can I find this street art?
Going Everywhere Fast is located on Washington Boulevard and McManus Avenue. This mural is on the side of what appears to be apartment buildings. A notable place of interest nearby is Pinches Tacos.
by SERGIO GARCIA
This mural has been in my neighborhood for many years. So many in fact, that I don’t remember the mural ever not being there. And to me, it’s become a perennial aspect of my surroundings. Unfortunately, I have no concrete evidence as to who the artist might be. Based on street artists I’m familiar with, my best guess is Mr. Brainwash. After thorough inspection of his official Instagram page, he has a few pieces that bear striking similarities to the mural in question. Despite having reached out to his people, as of the writing of this article, I have not received a response. If I do get an answer, this post will definitely be updated. In an effort to get to the bottom of this matter I even went into the liquor store to see if they knew who had put up the mural. This proved to be fruitless. However, in a way, not knowing who the artist is adds a bit of intrigue to this piece.
This mural depicts various pop culture icons sporting aviator sunglasses. Starting on the left, Marilyn Monroe is easily identifiable. Her signature hair gives her away and she’s the only one placed against a black backdrop. Next to her, and the only one not wearing aviator sunglasses, is Ray Charles. Instead, Charles is wearing his usual glasses and throwing up the peace sign while flashing his iconic grin. In the middle, Lou Reed gives us an apathetic look while Bob Marley, to his right, looks off into the distance. This next person was a bit difficult for me to distinguish. The first celebrity that came to mind was W.C. Fields, and a quick Google search confirmed this even though I couldn't find any instances of W.C. Fields in a pinstripe suit. For a moment, I thought it could have also been Winston Churchill, but he wouldn't make sense beside these other celebrities. Therefore, W.C. Fields seems to be the most likely candidate. Lastly, on the far right, Alfred Hitchcock strikes his classic pose with an uninterested look plastered on his face while holding his director clapboard.
The inclusion of such disparate pop culture icons and the way that they overlap and run into one another is captivating and amusing. Here, musicians, directors, actors, and comedians all occupy the same space. The use of stencils to create this piece is one of my favorite aspects and the lack of color (except black and the beige color of the wall) make this piece incredibly simple and the faces easy to discern. Despite the fact that each individual is their own person and known for their own accomplishments, they still share this space with others who have made great contributions to pop culture. And like me, I'm sure that everyone who comes across this mural can identify their favorite mogul.
Where can I find it?
This mural is located in Mid-City. On the corner of Meadowbrook Avenue and Pico Boulevard If you enter the parking lot to Pincher’s Liquor, you can’t miss it. Also nearby is Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.
by TOMMY JARRELL
Roughly two weeks ago I ran into Angeleno street artist Dr. Knudson while he was revamping his mural in Sunset Junction. Dr. Knudson has crafted many works of art throughout Los Angeles, though many of his works are concentrated in Downtown LA. Knudson has crafted artworks using acrylic paint, airbrush, chalk, spray paint, and patina. Similarly, it seems as though he’s capable of creating art on nearly any surface; he has casted his art onto canvas, copper, chalkboards, brass, napkins, brick walls, motorcycle helmets, and leather jackets. He’s created works of art for Night on Broadway, The Down & Out, 1720, DELIKT Clothing, Nekrogoblikon, Superchief Gallery LA, Manifest Justice, and Spring for Coffee, to name a few of his affiliates.
Dr. Knudson’s work primarily features gritty goblins, anthropomorphic animals, decrepit and post-apocalyptic cityscapes, and enchanting visions of foliage. After sampling his work it’s obvious that his inventive characters and settings are from somewhere else in time, though the influence of Los Angeles’s skyline and crumbling aesthetic have made a clear impression on his work.
The Art Itself
The mural that I caught Dr. Knudson refurbishing was originally created in 2015. In the time since, it has faded in the stark LA sun, but Knudson's recent work has revived it and returned it to its former glory. Its focal point is a small motorcycle gang composed of apes and goblins in a post-apocalyptic city. The goblins are armed and armored, ready to do battle and dispatch of any foes they encounter in this perilous world.
The most prominent goblin is standing up on his bike in the mural’s center. He has a monkey and a smaller goblin loaded up in a backpack strapped to his shoulders. The small, monocled monkey is seemingly performing the role of navigator as he has what appears to be a map in his hand. This monkey and his apparel demonstrate Dr. Knudson’s playful sense of humor. In addition to sporting a monocle, he is decked out in multiple wrist watches and an old military jacket akin to the one donned by the infamous Cap’n Crunch. The goblin in the lower lefthand corner, however, is much more severe. He’s holding knife between his teeth that reminds us of the implicit danger that is looming in this crumbling setting.
The arc of the silhouetted skyline in the background is reminiscent of Los Angeles’s. The sky that hangs above this scene is composed of beautiful, furrowed purple clouds. And in the heaps of rubble behind this motley motorcycle gang, there are many tiny, intriguing details.
Among all this wreckage in the background there are artists, animals, drunks, families, fishermen, heroes, and homies. There is a graffiti artist spray painting an octopus on a collapsing building. There is a family nearby innocently assessing the scene. Friends sit on a bridge smoking, drinking, and fishing like a catastrophe never happened. Another monkey, unaffiliated from the motorcycle gang, hangs from a mangled streetlamp. A turtle stands smoking in the doorway of a boarded up building. Then, from two separate rooftops, Batman and Wonder Woman look out over the remnants of the city, watching for signs of crime, waiting to leap into action.
According to Dr. Knudson all of these figures present in the backdrop of this mural are figures from the local neighborhood. For instance, the father of the building owner, that plays host to Knudson's mural, is the man fishing over the side of the bridge. The street artist who’s making an octopus mural is a local artist who goes by the name of Tones and his two sons are also included as well (one as the monkey hanging from the streetlamp and the other is sitting over on the bridge). The Batman in the mural is an homage to a kid in the community who had a Batman obsession. And the bearded guy drinking a beer is a late community legend who went by the name of Jimmy.
In a conversation that I had with Dr. Knudson he said, "It was important for me to make sure the locals were represented in the mural," and I think that's evident from the details of his work. "I mean they have to live with the art so it better mean something to them. Otherwise it just becomes some sort of selfish billboard for the artist," he continued. His nods to the local community demonstrate that Knudson is an artist who firmly understands that community inclusion is integral to the prolonged survival of his work. And it also demonstrates a level of consideration and respect that are beyond what is required, or even expected of him as a street artist.
Lastly, in the bottom right hand corner of his painting, there are two goblins eating TV dinners in the blue glow of an old television fitted with an antenna. These two goblins, who are participating in such a pedestrian pastime, along with all of the other figures populating this mural’s background, signal to us that life can go on even in a destitute and dilapidated place. And if life can carry on in this post-apocalyptic world that Dr. Knudson has painted, then we, who are far more fortunate by comparison, should be able to do the same in ours.
Where can you find this piece of street art?
You can find Dr. Knudson's mural at the corner of Fountain and Westmoreland. And while you can visibly see this mural from the convenient comfort of your car as you're driving past on Fountain Avenue, I do recommend that you stop so that you can linger awhile and explore this rich painting at your leisure. Dr. Knudson has left so many delightful little nuggets for us in this mural that it would be a shame for you to miss out on them.
by TOMMY JARRELL
It doesn’t take long to recognize that DABSMYLA’s artwork is both ethereal and captivating. DABSMYLA is a dynamic, husband-and-wife, street art duo from Australia. Their murals populate cities all around the world including New York, Tahiti, Berlin, Melbourne, Rio, London, Bergen, Detroit, D.C., and, as you have probably already guessed, Los Angeles. Notably, the twosome has crafted works of art for the 2015 MTV Movie Awards, The Bob Barker MarionetteTheatre, the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Adidas, Sanrio, and others.
Their work is bright and colorful, charming and orchestrated-- like a scene handpicked from one of your most lively dreams. Their work is poppy without being cloying or saccharine. Sometimes it features inventive, cartoonish patterns and characters that can elicit our most genuine and heartfelt smiles.
In their artwork, clouds, drums, eyeballs, pineapples, and even golden popcorn buckets sprout legs and can meander through fantastical worlds. Within their creations, houses, moons, and cans of spray paint possess faces loaded with whimsy and personality. A buck can lounge and sip fine wine by a cozy fire. A cut cake, with a face, can be seemingly aware of its mortal wound. But even within these capacious and vibrant worlds there are remnants of our own like the mountains and cacti outside a window, lifeless vases stuffed with flowers, light fixtures, shelved books, and the sleepy telephone always resting on its rocker nearby. Their art offers us a glimpse into a world like ours, but different. Maybe even better.
This work is abundant, seemingly overflowing with color, creativity, and fauna. The number of flowers, ferns, and leaves result in an astounding amount of depth in this mural. So much, in fact, that the lettering spelling out “COSMIC LOVE” seems to appear organically within their dreamscape, rather than being a separate element that tells us how to feel or read the piece.
The romantic pink and red lettering that emerge from the depths of this painting’s backdrop are naturally complimented by flowers done in the same shades. The plants, the flowering vines, the leaves, and ferns in the foreground that overlap the text feel natural and are necessary to achieve this level of illusion.
What tickles me the most about this mural is the black, eight-legged critter positioned on a pale green leaf near its center. His yellow eyes directed toward the upper righthand corner of the painting make him appear skittish and paranoid in an endearing and creaturely way. The fact that he is the only character in the piece makes him even more remarkable and darling to a mural that has the capacity to inspire us to live and love more vividly when we walk away from it, even if we must do so reluctantly.
So, where is this artwork?
You can find this exquisite piece of street art on the northeast corner of Wilton and Hollywood Boulevard. Also nearby there's a California Donuts, Catch 56, Sabor Y Cultura, and a number of other cafes.
by SERGIO GARCIA
Invader is an artist whose work is easily recognizable and can be found all over the globe. From Tokyo to Versailles, Bhutan to Paris, and of course, here in Los Angeles, Invader has been able to put up his art in over 75 cities. And yet, as widespread as Invader's work is, not much is known about the actual artist. Working masked and under the veil of night, Invader continues to be an artist that prefers to stay in the shadows while his art gets the limelight.
Invader takes his name from the 1978 arcade game Space Invaders and the majority of his art incorporates these characters. Using square ceramic tiles, Invader brings these characters out of the game and into our world while still retaining their original 8-bit forms. We can appreciate this wholeheartedly in this piece. Invader has used white tiles to recreate the Happy Face Mac icon. However, instead of the Happy Face, Invader has used vibrant, red tiles to place a space invader on a light blue background.
The color and juxtaposition caught my eye and as I drove by it on my way home from work I couldn't help but turn to look and appreciate the ingenuity of this piece. Using ceramic tiles is so vastly different from most street artists and definitely not a common sight on the walls of local businesses in LA. Not only that, but the sheer nostalgia that this piece brings bubbling forth is refreshing. I wouldn't consider myself a gamer, but I did enjoy playing Space Invaders as a kid and seeing one of the titular characters on display, in my city, made me smirk.
The use of the Happy Face Mac icon set me off on yet another nostalgia trip. The icon was familiar to me because it’s the face that greeted me whenever I turned on one of the old Macs in computer class back in elementary school. This piece by Invader is easily becoming one of my favorite pieces in Los Angeles.
On its own, this piece is stunning. Yet, all around it there's so much going on that it's hard to appreciate this piece without incorporating the minor things that help elevate Invader's work. To the left of the piece, we have four pink faces that seem to come out of the wall. The fact that they're baby doll faces adds a sinister twist. Next to it, on a pipe, there’s a lone, green crayon sticker. Then on the right, we have stacked on top of each other, six different additions. Starting from the top we see a goofy looking face with the word "FAVORITE" written across the eyes, a "FO5H WAS HERE" sticker, a family crossing sign, the head of Frankenstein's monster with tentacles instead of a body and an eye. Lastly, we have what is one of my favorite additions: in the bottom right, a black, spray-painted cat looks up at Invader's work, as if it’s appreciating the beauty of the piece. This motley assortment of different stickers combined with Invader's piece, the baby doll faces, and the spray-painted cat, fuse together to form something incredibly peculiar and alluring.
Where can I find it?
On the corner where Beverly Blvd. converges onto Temple St, and to the left of the driveway into Beverly Auto Body.
by TOMMY JARRELL
Spencer McCarty is a visual artist who was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He moved to Los Angeles in 2013, after studying copywriting at the University of Missouri — Columbia, and quickly began pursuing a career as an artist.
McCarty’s artwork demonstrates his evident talent as a drawer and painter. His works showcase a bold deployment of color and lines that convey a striking amount of movement. In a 2014 interview with RAW, McCarty accurately describes himself as an “abstract portrait painter.” His paintings largely feature captivating depictions of the female form, animals, celebrities, and other pop culture icons. He has captured the likenesses of Patti Smith, Florence (from Florence in the Machine), SIA, Tupac, James Dean, Biggie, Rick Sanchez, and others in his incredibly stylized paintings.
Since beginning his career as a street artist in 2015, McCarty has crafted over a dozen murals in Los Angeles and also has another that is located outside of a hostel in Santorini, Greece. He has created murals for Volunteers of America Los Angeles (VOALA), Catch LA, the Mid City Arts + Music Festival, and, most recently, Plungerhead Wines.
I have passed the mural exhibited above on my way to and from work for the past two years and it always adds a dose of brightness and exuberance to my day. McCarty’s audacious use of color in this piece makes it feel lively and contemporary. The lady’s blue lips, the purple, pink, and yellow incorporated into her fierce feathered headdress, and the way that they compliment her flowing green hair, quickly made this mural one of my favorites in the city.
There is something illusive about this painting that draws me in and makes me want to live as this fierce chieftain-warrior. Maybe it’s her headdress that appeals to something tribal that lives deep within us all, or her undeniable power and attitude that we all wish we could convey to the rest of the world. What ever it is, I know this is a mural that I keep going back to willingly, regardless of my commute, because it always seems to have something to offer.
Where can you spot this painting?
This painting can be found in Little Armenia, on the northeast corner of Fountain Ave and Edgemont. Other nearby sites and include Square one Dining, the Scientology building, and Made Solid.
by SERGIO GARCIA
Kai Aspire is a native Angeleno. Even though his work is known worldwide and he has been able to put his art up in various cities, including Paris, Miami, and Aspen, Kai has a number of artworks here in Los Angeles. His art critiques our society and sends a very powerful message by using a surprisingly simple style.
Even though this piece looks like one complete mural, I'd argue it's really more like two separate pieces that share a theme--consumerism. And here in Los Angeles, consumerism plays an enormous role in everyday life. As a native Angeleno, Kai Aspire knows this well and has used his art to transmit a very poignant message.
In the bottom left corner, we see a character resembling the average person. Kai Aspire has dubbed this character, IF(Imaginary Friend). We also see that IF is holding onto a heart shaped balloon that is lifting him off the ground. This on its own is heartwarming, representing how love can carry us to new heights. However, IF seems troubled. And it's easy to see why; IF can't be whisked away by love because he's weighed down by a bag of money. Is Kai telling us that in the world we live in, many people seem to be too focused on consumerism to make way for love? Could it be, that for some, buying the latest technology or keeping up with the newest fashion trend doesn't allow them time for love? Or perhaps this piece represents how some are too busy focusing on their careers--chasing the American dream--to let love whisk them off their feet.
Another interpretation is that the high cost of living in Los Angeles, simply doesn't allow people to give in to love. How are we supposed to set aside quality time for our loved ones when the city we live in requires us to work excruciatingly long hours just to survive paycheck to paycheck? The beauty of this piece is that while Kai is clearly telling us that love and money are two priorities that cannot coexist, and that a choice needs to be made as to which is more important, a lot is still left up to our imaginations.
In the center of the mural, Kai has depicted a much more blatant critique of consumerism. Once again, we see IF. This time he's behind bars made up of a barcode. The startled look on IF's face helps us reach the conclusion that his current circumstances came about unexpectedly. In a city where material possessions are idolized, many find themselves imprisoned by this system that promotes consumerism. Kai's piece begs the question: Can IF break out from this confinement? And more importantly, can we ourselves break free from the chains of consumerism?
Where can I see it?
These pieces are on the northwest corner of Western Avenue and 3rd Street, to the left of the main entrance of the Nat King Cole United States Post Office.
by TOMMY JARRELL
Within the last month, two new murals have popped up in East Hollywood thanks to Jerkface, a New York-based street artist. He has three other murals that he's recently completed in LA, but I won't get to those in this post (mostly because I haven't figured out their exact whereabouts yet). His works heavily reference cartoon and comic book characters, frequently blending two or more from different sources. His work is playful, colorful, and intricate. And although he is not necessarily an LA-based artist, a few of his works are now fixed in LA and help to beautify our urban landscape and add an extra dose of intrigue to our neighborhoods.
Exhibit A: Spy vs. Spy
Okay, so this piece isn’t super colorful. It’s largely black and white, staying true to the original nature of the Spy vs. Spy comics created by Antonio Prohías, but this allows the vibrant red bombs and sticks of dynamite to become even more incendiary against the monochromatic backdrop. These spies painted by Jerkface stay true to their original nature with their elongated, beak-like faces and signature wide-brimmed hats and trench coats that harken back to another one of Prhoías’s characters, El Hombre Siniestro.
Instead of just a single white spy versus a single black spy, they have multiplied to effectively fill the whole space. What has been created for us is a battlefield of mischievous spies who are apparently all plotting against one another. My favorite part of this piece is the white spy holding a lone stick of dynamite who cannot be confined to the approximately 10’ x 9’ space that the rest of the spies are confined to, who blurs the borders of our world and this playful, yet cartoonishly dangerous one Jerkface has created.
Where’s the mural?
It’s located at the intersection of Melrose and Heliotrope right next to Gracie’s Pizza and adjacent to LACC. Other nearby places include the Ukrainian Culture Center, The Faculty, Scoops, and Native LA.
Exhibit B: Richie Rich/Casper the Friendly Ghost, a mashup
This piece exhibits Jerkface’s prominent use of bright colors and his propensity to cleverly remix characters from a variety of sources. In this mural, a mixture of brown money bags and blonde-haired, faceless Richies, decked out in suit coats and ubiquitous red bowties, create a pattern that is teeming with vibrance.
Prominently featured in the middle of it all is a single transparent Casper tossing a mystery bag in his hand. Though the colors are bold and the pattern is rich, I must say I find this transparency that Jerkface has achieved here to be the most masterful part of this mural. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but it looks effortless here.
I love the way that it looks like Casper’s ghostly form could possibly be rising out the centermost Richie’s body. It’s certain that the mural was composed intentionally in this manner and it's an aspect of the painting that makes you wonder: Are Richie and Casper one and the same? Has money robbed Richie of his soul? What do ghosts even use for money? When will our own friendly ghosts step out of their faceless bodies?
Where is this work of art?
This mural can be found on the wall outside of Santa Tire Depot at the intersection of Ardmore and Santa Monica Boulevard.
Also nearby, Tacos Al Pastor.
Tommy Jarrell is a poet, writer, and artist who lives in Los Angeles. He has previously written for Bleacher Report and Throwback. His poems have appeared in The Squaw Valley Review and 805.