Photos, Interviews: Mural Painting on La Brea via Merry Karnowsky Gallery

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Crowd Watching Craola&Axis

Over the weekend of August 17 and 18th the fabulous Merry Karnowsky Gallery, in partnership with TarFest 2013  hosted a rousing street art event that brought fine art and street art together in a bold new way.  Gallery artists hit the streets alongside tried and true graffiti artists to share their craft by creating unique and exiting murals along La Brea Ave, and had a smashing time in the process!

Six murals created by artists Craola, Edward Walton Wilcox, KMNDZdevNgosha, Britts Ehringer + Namaak Collective, and Brazilian “grafiteiro” artist Nunca, now grace the west side of La Brea Ave between 1st and 2nd street. With the exception of Nunca’s corner piece–he has the entire northwest corner of 1st and La Brea–these gorgeous treasures will be gone in just one month since the shops behind most of the boards are opening soon.) Merry and  her husband James Panozzoe, the creator of TarFest, a free all ages music and art event to be held at The La Brea Tarpits, are hoping some of these pieces will make it over to Tar Fest in September for further display.  It is still undecided which ones will be there, so your best bet is to get over to this stretch of La Brea soon to catch these vibrant murals in person.

I was particularly thrilled about this event since I live around the corner from the gallery, and these murals just kick the vibe of the community up about ten notches. A few artists got a head start on the event Friday night, and CARTWHEEL was there Friday and Saturday to catch the works’ progression.  We even stopped by Monday afternoon to see the final product. This is a must see LA event!

Even though Saturday afternoon was extremely busy with laboring artists and giddy patrons, I was lucky to get a few words with some of the artists.

final Nunca

Nunca and me

As I approached Nunca’s work around 5 o’clock, he had just began his mural, and  was already being stopped to pose for pictures with fans excited to have him here on our Los Angeles streets.  I asked him why he was excited about this particular show with Merry Karnowsky:

This is the first time I ‘ve painted a mural like this, on a wall this big in LA and this is a gallery that [really understands] street art and conceptual art.

He was also very excited that because his piece will be in front of soon-to-be-parking-lot, his work will stand for at least 6 months.

Nunca currently resides in Brazil and will be here through the end of August.  His mural, the biggest of  all the La Brea murals, will be completed by the end of the week. Fret not, however, fans He says that:

 Mid-September, I’ll be back to paint more walls.

Los Angels, the home of so many amazing murals, no doubt more then welcomes such a talent to beautify and challenge its streets.

KMNDZ Working

Final Kmndz

Just across 1st street the line up of the other murals begins with artist Johnny “KMNDZ” Rodriguez.  His is of a robot, lying flat on its back, with tall reeds of copper colored grass growing though its body. It is mostly monochromatic except for the the robot’s red eyes, and a red hummingbird bird approaching a pink flower growing out of the grass.  Something about the piece is both hopeful and sad: a coming to life in the midst of loss. I loved it.

Next to it is the Namaak Collective’s wild Japanese animation inspired/psychodelic mural; it is a total blast of color, fraught with a myriad of ideas.

Namaak is a global artist collective formed by artists Britts Ehringer and Marischa Slusarski. Representative of the many great and eclectic minds at work, this piece is fun, eccentric and multi-faceted. The top of the piece is dotted with a circle pattern in a gentle color gradation, while giant tiger and lion heads boarder shimmering metallic letters forming the words “Tar Pit Landing Request” (an obvious shout out to the TarFest–this work is almost sure to be see at the fest!)

Final Namaak

This piece is extremely campy and hilarious, showcasing the multitude of talent available to the collective, but revels in not taking itself too seriously at all. These guys are also showing at Launch Gallery (James Panozzoe’s other venture, and nonprofit, which shares the building with Merry Karnowsky.) As one would expect, it is a really, really cool show.  My favorite is Britts’ “The Magic Christian” based on a 1970‘s movie of the same title starring Ringo Starr. (Yet another film to add to my to-watch list of movies!) Britt describes the piece:

The painting is based around a scene where [Ringo Starr] buys a Rembrandt and cuts out the nose […] and says he just likes the nose, and then he says “keep your eye out for a good ear” […] That whole painting [Magic Christian] was about destroying it. I created it then wiped in out except for the ear.

The Launch show closes August 24th.

Final DevnGosha

devNgosha are roommates and creative partners, who work together to bring fine art and illustration into the same world. This mural project was really the perfect fit for them, as they are already of the mindset that there is no valued difference between any type of creative, authentic and technically good art. Devn is a fine artist who works in oil paint, while Gosha is an illustrator with a back ground in watercolor.  While their work usually strives for meaning and story, they decided to work their mural into a colorful display of shapes and lines, creating something bright and interesting for an fun outdoor experience. I spoke with Gosha:

In a lot of our paintings we do have meaning, but for this we’re thinking design and fine art as far as colors go, and we’re thinking loose simple shapes that we could tie up and see what happens. And this is what this is.

final Edwardwaltonwilcoxmural

The Gilded Tantrum

Artist Edward Walton Wilcox created a magical narwhal of mythical proportions. Using only black and white it is in welcome contrast to the colorful pieces surrounding.  It adds a really nice flow to the murals for passing cars.  This piece is inspired by “The Gilded Tantrum,” the astonishing main show currently on exhibition at Merry Karnowski Gallery.  “The Golden Tantrum” is partially inspired by an  18th-century sailing ship passed down through Edward’s family. The center piece of the show is a beautifully patinaed wooden ship that blows steam. Fans of Edward may agree this show is perhaps his tightest, most narratively complete and fulfilling show to date. It is both dark and uplifting.

But out on La Brea, Edward seemed to be all about getting his hands dirty on an outdoor mural:

I’m loving the show. I’m not normally and an outdoor painter, I’m a gallery painter, what I like about this is you get to use big terrible brushes, big fat brushes. Its very different for me […] I heard the whole thing about street art is you have to show up, paint fast and get away. So thats what I did. I was done in an hour!

Edward described how the narwhal came into play:

My current show is inspired by the Dutch Northern European painters, and I just continued my sight north, and found the narwhal […] I started reading about them and then put them into the paintings for the show […] a lot of people don’t know that they’re actual creatures, and they say to me, “Oh I love the unicorn whale.”

Although the newest artist to street art and murals, Edward  seemed to be having the most fun, and CARTWHEEL hopes to find him again one day painting outside on our Los Angeles Streets!

Axis Working

Final Axis

Final Craola

Finally, the real circus of the event surrounded artists Axis and the always popular Craola.  These two worked on separate pieces that nicely joined together in the middle. Axis created a multicolored, somewhat disgruntled looking iguana, while Craola gave life to one on of his magical blue jays.

Fans were thrilled to watch these two work. The artists seemed to be responding with equal energy and enthusiasm to the electricity of the surrounding crowd.

Inside the Merry Karnowski Gallery, the joyous atmosphere continued. Alongside Edward’s main show, there is a collective show of the participating artists. There they show a few pieces to complement and complete the street art portion of the evening.

I got to talk to the sweet and charismatic Craola next to his paintings. I was surprised to hear him question the quality of the mural he had just completed, saying that for a piece that large, he generally works in a five by five square inch per day.  He recognized his perfectionist attitude and even laughed at himself a little for being so hard on himself.

We talked about his imaginative use of the phrase “The Outside” to describe the other worldly realms he creates with his art.  He has a childlike fascination with the idea of bringing two contrary places together. Coral reef meets jungles is his current place of interest, while his next show to be held at Merry Karnowsky will examine dinosaur fossils and the places the dinosaurs may have lived. I really cannot wait to see that; Craola just beamed when discussing it.

Be sure to visit these murals before they go, and we’ll see you at TarFest!

Photos: Julio Moreno

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