People sip cherry cokes 24 hours a day under the sherbet-orange awnings at Fred 62, whether Vermont Avenue’s passing traffic is at 9am rush hour intensity or 3am’s streetlights and occasional revving motorcycle. Inside this neighborhood institution, which has been serving Los Feliz as Fred62 since 1997 (before that it was George’s Coffee Shop), the background noise is a little quieter, but the backdrop a lot louder: The diner’s walls feature the colorful artwork of Wayne White, Emmy-award winning set designer, performance artist, artistic director, puppet maker, sculptor, and painter. Like the restaurant –which displayed the artist’s works before they were in museum collections of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Detroit Art Museum, Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation in Los Angeles, Laguna Art Museum, among others–White is an important figure to arise out of Los Angeles’1980s/90s art scene.
The subject of an acclaimed documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing, and with a retrospective of his work was at Western Project in March 2013, White has been called one of the founding fathers of Pop Art. He was the award winning artistic director behind PeeWee’s Playhouse and music videos by The Smashing Pumpkins (‘Tonight, Tonight’) and Peter Gabriel (‘Big Time’).
Connoisseurs of both diner fare and pop art can indulge in a midnight Bossa Nova Waffle Sundae or Berry Punk Tart as they study White’s word paintings on thrift store canvases at Fred 62. They can imagine a comedic, Tennessee-accented voice behind each powerful hand-painted phrase as they spoon mouthfuls of whipped cream onto their tongues.
In a September 2012 interview, Beauty is Embarrassing‘s director Neil Berkeley had this to say about White’s Fred 62 paintings:
They’re still there with 10 years of grease covering them. They have no idea how much money they have up on those walls collecting filth.
Since Fred 62 is open around the clock, there is always – seven days a week, 24 hours a day – an art exhibition worthy of your attention on view in L.A.
Images 2, 4 and 5 from Facebook.com/theFred62
All others Lisa Derrick/CARTWHEELart