After having spent much of his career in the advertising world, Eric Junker is focusing on tangible creative pleasures. "Now I'm back to just making stuff," the Silver Lake–based artist says. In his case, however, "stuff" means doing way more than what that word vaguely suggests.
Junker's kinetic murals might look familiar to Silver Lake, Echo Park and Atwater Village regulars. His technique of broad, bold strokes and playful imagery taken from nature channels Keith Haring — if the trailblazing 1980s artist and activist were immersed in California surfing and camping instead of New York City street culture. These days, his work has That Guy quality. Junker is the consistently working character actor of hipster restaurant murals and branding.
When he finds an opportunity, Junker suddenly gets to work, sometimes almost spontaneously. A wall at Friends and Family in East Hollywood was mostly blank, save for a refrigerator case and dry-goods shelf. Then after sharing a couple of sketches, Junker let loose on it, with the blessing of co-owners and chefs Roxana Jullapat and Dan Mattern, and in the course of a few hours he'd covered the floor-to-ceiling surface with his signature handwriting and fruit- and fauna-inspired forms.
"He doesn't just fill up the space," Jullapat says. "He actually creates something. It's so satisfying." Junker has left his mark on parts of Everson Royce Bar, All’Aqua and A-Frame, as well as spots as dispersed as Colorado, Ojai and Costa Rica.
In a relatively more formal context, Junker lends his ad expertise to branding projects and product label designs for Hoxie Spritzer, Ventura Spirits, Silverlake Wine and Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee in New York City. He's created posters for events and restaurants, such as L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade and the Abbott Kinney Festival. And then there's the Resist Hate campaign he launched in the wake of the Trump era. "Somehow, Resist Hate has been embraced by the baking community," Junker observes. Jullapat and Stan Weightman Jr. and Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections were immediate partners of pop-up events this past winter held to benefit the ACLU, at which Junker sold T-shirts and protest signs emblazoned with the slogan. (There's a Resist Hate mural at Valerie Echo Park, too.)
Junker likes not having a foot solidly planted in the fine-art world, nor in advertising and marketing. It's a fluid, interdisciplinary philosophy that's helped make him the go-to guy for a certain niche within L.A.'s food community.
"We take into consideration current culture, future and past culture all at once, and allow for those different viewpoints to kind of inform what we're going to do," says Silverlake Wine and Everson Royce Bar co-owner Randy Clement. Junker also is involved with Clement and chef Matt Molina's next project in Highland Park. "It takes someone like him, who has a rich viewpoint from all angles, to get into the nuts and bolts." Plus Junker has valuable practical skills. "He can build things," Clement adds. It's not all theory or art for art's sake.
This visibility might seem sudden, but Junker has actually cultivated this unusual professional mix over the course of many years. "Part of my art career was performance art," he explains. "It was sort of like punk-rock puppetry. We used to open for bands at Spaceland and Canter's Kibbitz Room, and [at the] highbrow end we did a performance at MOCA downtown."
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Elements of this L.A.-specific past come into play when he's working on big murals, since there's "a performance aspect and physical aspect of it," Junker says. Again, he's big into the outdoors and environmentalism — he created a line of goods under the Conscious Camper brand and has worked on projects with Patagonia and Seavees — so making murals has deeper resonance. "I equate it to rock climbing. It's physically challenging in a way painting in the studio isn't."
Up this fall: another cross-pollinated effort with Everson Royce Bar, but this time in New Orleans at Bacchanal wine bar and restaurant. ERB hosted chef Joaquin Rodas and the Bacchanal crew for a NOLA-themed event, and now the Bywater joint is returning the favor, including giving Junker another canvas to live-paint on Sunday, Oct. 8. It's part of what he and Clement describe as an "L.A. to LA" exchange. Junker plans to make it a road trip, much like another expedition he's currently planning to Baja, during which he hopes to "leave a trail of art along the way." Spoken like a man whose creative journeys are literal.