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.
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.