The horror show that is parking in Los Angeles is legendary. And parking in West Hollywood takes the nightmare to a whole other level. But Pattern Park, the fourth and most recent of West Hollywood’s micro-parks, is a bright and colorful spot in this dismal landscape.
The park was designed and painted by renowned street artist Chase. His striking patterns, applied using spray paint, exterior latex paint and stencils, decorate the sidewalk surrounding the parking lot on the north side of Sunset Boulevard between Sherbourne Drive and Horn Avenue. Also benefiting from Chase’s instantly recognizable style is the parking booth inside the lot and the fence surrounding it, which is decorated with cutouts of Chase’s signature eye.
From Venice Beach to DTLA, from Ventura to Long Beach, many walls in the Southland feature Chase’s murals. Born and bred in Antwerp, Belgium, the 40-year-old Chase has lived in Los Angeles since the mid-’90s and he doesn’t take his adopted hometown’s acceptance of his art for granted. Over eggs Benedict at brunch al fresco in one of the Sunset Plaza restaurants just across the boulevard from Pattern Park, Chase — who sports an “LA” tattoo under his right ear — recalls his early days of trying to differentiate street art from graffiti for Los Angeles business owners.
“You didn’t used to see walls like you see now,” he says. “You saw some alley work behind Melrose or downtown back alleys. You saw some stuff from freeways. Venice had the tattoo shop and the graffiti walls, but I always thought the art was good enough to be on the main street.
“If I saw a wall that would lure me in, I’d speak to the business owners, show them photographs in my books, explaining what I wanted to do for them, for free. I would point out banners and neon and 50 percent off signs and say, ‘That’s not how you get attention. The way to get attention is works of art that are pop-y in color, happy and positive in nature.’ Four or five times out of 10, I would get them.”
The Chase eye, the main identifying characteristic in his work, has its roots in the artist’s difficult childhood. It signifies his way of searching for positivity and motivation. He looked to mythologist Joseph Campbell, philosopher Alan Watts and author Neale Donald Walsch but also to hip-hop artists — people who came from bad situations but have a knowledge of self and are doing the best they can, such as The Pharcyde, Gangstarr, A Tribe Called Quest, Aceyelone and Freestyle Fellowship.
The eye is the focus of the street artist's new solo show, "Into Light and Space," which will be shown beginning Friday, March 30, at Castelli Art Space. “Having painted in the streets for so long, I always see light boxes and neon that are part of the urban landscape,” Chase says. “The idea was to take that and make clean and polished pieces for a high-end interior environment.”
To that end, Chase delved into Zen and Taoism, putting written messages in his work. From that he developed his characters, Awareness Geezers, one regular eye and one wide-awake eye. He has since evolved away from the literal messages he would include in his pieces but the eye remains as a symbol for awareness.
“Having painted in the streets for so long, I always see light boxes and neon that are part of the urban landscape,” he says. “The idea was to take that and make clean and polished pieces for a high-end interior environment.”
It was through conversations with art attorney Eugene Rome, an expert on fine art, that the pieces for “Into Light and Space” started to formalize. “What I saw in Chase’s work was an unintentional, maybe subconscious reference to a very important period in Californian art: the light and space movement,” Rome says. “The initial movement was about a study of light. It’s not about two-dimensional canvas but different textures and different ways of illuminating a piece to generate an emotional, creative response. Chase’s work made that leap from a happy experience of looking at a mural into an introspective one.”
Chase worked on designs for “Into Light and Space” for three months before starting the process to find the right materials to create the physical pieces. For this, he estimated a few weeks of production. Six months later, 16 pieces planned for the show made it to Voila! Creative Space, which was instrumental to the manufacturing of the art, and where the preview for “Into Light and Space” was being held.
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Using materials such as glass, neon, fluorescent lights, resin and acrylic, “Into Light and Space” is a softer, smoother and sleeker iteration of Chase’s work than he has done before. Looking at the square-ish backlit “Tunnel Vision,”one of the few light boxes in the show, the photo film rendition of the Chase eye with ombre layers of red give off a feeling of vibration. “Oneness,” a metal print in neon in blue and in red, has a soft-focus look, not unlike watching a 3-D movie without the requisite glasses. The ultra chrome print on archival Somerset, “Vortex,” is just that, with the Chase eye deep in the mesh of a web, and the distorted eyes of the metal print “Wavy (Bubblegum),” in pink and in blue, provide a hallucinogenic trip.
“I’ve been designing on my computer for 20 years,” Chase says. “It’s part of my daily diet. A lot of my murals often start as digital sketches that I later paint by hand. You learn color palette, balance, composition, placement. In a way, the light and space movement is a minimalistic approach to feeling, something that evokes through light and space. That reminded me of things I like about design.
"Plus, it’s parallel with some of my later work that is influenced by psychedelia, which creates the bridge that I’m walking with painting in the streets and this body of work.”
"Into Light & Space" will be on view at Castelli Art Space from Friday, March 30, through Monday, April 9, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 31, from 6 to 10 p.m.