PREVIEW & INTERVIEW: Inaugural Opening of Over the Influence Gallery in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District with “Annihilation,”a Solo Exhibition by Vhils – February 22nd

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Hong Kong gallery Over the Influence inaugurates its new Arts District space in Los Angeles on February 22 with a solo exhibition by Vhils entitled Annihilation.

Los Angeles is home to several stunning street murals by Alexandre Farto aka Vhils, made using his strikingly original technique of chiseling, sanding, and blasting large-scale, finely detailed, emotionally expressive portraits directly into building exteriors. Splitting his time between Hong Kong and his native Lisbon, however, the artist has not had a solo gallery exhibition here since 2011. That will change this Thursday evening, as the downtown Arts District celebrates the inaugural exhibition at Over the Influence, a Hong Kong gallery opening impressive new LA digs, with a solo show of new studio work by Vhils — along with a new mural by the artist in collaboration with Shepard Fairey, which according to Fairey truly is a reason to celebrate Vhils’ LA adventure, saying in a recent post,

“In a numbing sea of digital screens and pixels, Vhils’ street art and fine art demonstrate that literal and symbolic depth still matter. His art is graphically alluring and viscerally tactile, but also existentially provocative because of his simultaneous creation and destruction. He’s creating sophisticated work for an artist at any age, but especially for such a young guy.”

This we are thrilled to say will be a permanent addition to our neighborhood’s street art cosmos — and a star attraction on Cartwheel Art’s legendary mural and immersive art tours.

There are always question worth asking whenever a renowned street artist creates works on a more intimate, portable, collector-friendly scale. In the case of Vhils, we asked those questions (and more) of Lauren Every-Wortman, Artist Liaison / Consulting Curator at OTI.

“Public murals and street art are merely a part of Vhils’ practice,”

notes Every-Wortman.

“In making his murals, he carves into the physical wall using hammer drills to expose the brick and plaster underneath, revealing powerful portraits behind these everyday urban surfaces; this same concept of removing layers to reveal the image underneath is translated into multiple mediums in his studio practice.”

Wooden doors, acid-etched metal plates, cast concrete — replicating the outdoors for the indoors, material inspirations the same, transfer hs way of working — from a sand-blaster to an awl, say.

Every-Wortman also notes that some of his newer works such his urban landscapes made of collaged advertising posters use discarded materials found on the streets where he’s done his murals.

“In a way,”

she observes,

“his work is heavily archaeological.”

In that context, the show’s title, Annihilation, might refer not only to erasure and destruction of civilization and its remains, but also the obsolescence of all manner of borders and boundaries, between the past and the present, the individual and the collective, the high and the low in visual culture, and the roles of audience and activist. The erasure of the veils that conceal the latent presence of beauty everywhere waiting to be revealed. Maybe that’s what Vhils means by “the LA way of life.”

Speaking of which, Cartwheel Art also wanted to know what has drawn OTI to Los Angeles now, and to the Arts District particularly. Every-Wortman recounts the gallery’s desire to come to a city whose art scene is both dynamic and evolving, established and open-minded.

“We wanted to be in a place where we could become a part of a real community. We hope that we can contribute to this exciting time for the Arts District, especially by showcasing artists like Vhils whose practice has continually revolved around unearthing the real human beings hidden by urban ecosystems and development. We’ve also found the urban history of the Arts District to be really appealing. We are very excited to become a part of that, and we hope to establish ourselves as a new landmark in the neighborhood.”

With the gallery’s renovation of 6000 square feet of 1930’s-era warehouse space overseen by AUX Architects, they seem to be on track for doing just that. But to make extra sure, the building will also unveil a brand new mural by Vhils in collaboration with Shepard Fairey — who had previously worked together in Lisbon in 2017 — and as mentioned above, it will be permanent.

As the gallery program moves forward, future shows are planned with artists from the gallery’s roundly international stable of eclectic talents, including Cleon Peterson (CA), Invader (France), Kathryn McNaughton (CA), Nobuyoshi Araki (Japan), Ron Arad (UK). Vhils was born in Lisbon, went to art school in London and splits his time between Portugal and Hong Kong. With Guy Rusha — an artist once based in London — tapped to be the new director, the internationalism carries as, along with an empathetic artist’s perspective, the very sort of border-blasting aesthetic and social orientation that so inspires Vhils himself.

“Part of the reason we wanted to expand to LA,”

says Every-Wortman,

“was to create a dialogue between the US and Asia. As the world becomes smaller, it has become more important to actively share and promote perspectives from diverse cultures and histories. We’re really excited to present a dynamic program of influential artists from around the globe, including some real heavy-hitters based in Los Angeles, young and old.”

Thanks, OTI! From all of us here at Cartwheel Art, welcome to the Arts District family.

Annihilation by Alexandre Farto AKA Vhils
February 22nd – April 1st

Opening Reception:
February 22nd, 6-9 PM

Over the Influence
833 East 3rd Street
(Downtown Los Angeles Arts District)
LA, CA 90013

More Information:
OTI Website
OTI Instagram
OTI Facebook Event Page

Top Photo: Preview of work for Annihilation, at OTI Los Angeles. Courtesy of OTI.

Preview of work for Annihilation, at OTI Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of OTI.

Preview of work for Annihilation, at OTI Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Vhils.

Mural by Vhils x Shepard Fairey. Photo courtesy of Vhils.

Mural from 2010 in Los Angeles by Vhils x JR. Photo courtesy of Vhils

Wooden doors and etched metal cube by Vhils at Art Palm Springs Fair with OTI. Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot

Wooden doors by Vhils at Art Palm Springs Fair with OTI. Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot.

Wooden doors by Vhils at Art Palm Springs Fair with OTI. Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot.

Etched metal cube by Vhils at Art Palm Springs Fair with OTI. Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot.

Rendering by Aux Architecture of Over the Influence Gallery in the DTLA Arts District (work by Cleon Peterson)

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