For the past 15 years, Los Feliz residents and moviegoers at the Vintage Los Feliz Theatre on Vermont were treated to a heavy dose of Jack Dawson realness as Leonardo DiCaprio's likeness stared off into the distance — brow furrowed — from a mural on the Russell Avenue side of the building. DiCaprio's moody visage was flanked by Uma Thurman (as Mia Wallace), a young Johnny Depp, Sidney Poitier, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin. In Australian artist Brad Robson's recently completed replacement mural, Liz (this time in full Cleopatra regalia) and Charlie made the cut, but the rest of the crew has been replaced by an abbreviated roster of individual portraits of Cate Blanchett and Morgan Freeman.
Robson, who was in NYC at the time, answered some of our questions about the new faces in the neighborhood.
What's your connection to L.A.?
I have spent much of my adult life traveling. Los Angeles was next on my list. I decided to plan a lengthy trip — first stopping in L.A., then going to New York — with the hopes of finding a bare wall. I have a few good friends in Los Angeles, but I suppose the new mural is now my biggest personal connection with the city. I’m based in Sydney. ... But frankly, just spending the few weeks I did in L.A., I am toying with the idea of moving.
Why did you select these four movie stars in particular? There's no immediate connection (apart from their fame, obviously).
Even though this mural is a bit different than the majority of my works, I still wanted to stay consistent with my style ... and part of that is balance. I wanted the mural to really represent Los Angeles, the film industry and to mean something a bit more to me than a recognizable face. I chose Charlie Chaplin and Elizabeth Taylor because they are the epitome of iconic. They are two incredibly unique Hollywood stars and Los Feliz legends.
I wanted the mural to of course remain timeless, but also to represent the contemporary industry — one that continues to thrive. I chose Cate Blanchett and Morgan Freeman as my contemporaries. Blanchett is a very important artist to me, with all she does for the Australian and international world of film and theater. I mean, what doesn’t she do? In my eyes, she is already a legend. She is a beautiful representation of a strong, female lead (and just to say it: She has incredible facial structure). I don’t know Morgan Freeman personally, but I can probably speak for many people when I say he is an inspiration and a face of success. He has built his career from the bottom up.
What do you feel like the mural adds to the Los Feliz neighborhood?
I think it’s a refreshing but vastly relevant addition to Los Feliz. With its already timeless, somewhat whimsical art deco vibe and aesthetic, I wanted to bring in an impactful mural that is visually stimulating but also highlights a very important part of L.A. culture. It wasn’t easy to choose these important figures, because there are so many, but I wanted my work here to be a memorable experience for viewers. The black-and-white palette was used to create a classic mural, while the "blocky" edges and hints of my abstract style add to Los Feliz’s vintage feel.
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Have you painted any other murals in L.A.?
I haven’t; this was my first. I’ll be back in L.A. [soon] with hopes of scoping out another cool wall. I’m sure I’ll be back for more soon.
What other projects are you working on?
Well, I just finished illustrating a book for an Australian feature film titled The School. After I finished the Los Feliz mural, I flew to New York, where I painted and exhibited a three-piece series at Woodward Gallery, where I’m currently represented. They are hanging in the gallery for the remainder of this week. A lot has happened in the last month or so that I’ve been in the States.