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.
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.