The Los Angeles art world is thriving right now, with a robust gallery and museum scene garnering world attention. And that’s a great thing for the city. But L.A. Weekly's annual Artopia event is about another kind of L.A. art world — one that embraces a dynamic, experimental, emotional relationship to popular culture and isn’t afraid to let its hair down. That art world fuses elements of painting, photography, performance, fashion, music, film and video into new, eclectic forms of expression.
Artopia unfolds April 30, at the unique open-air street art venue the Container Yard in the downtown Arts District. As the event’s curator for the second year, I wanted to expand on the themes of interactivity and immersion that animated the 2014 edition with such edginess and raw sex appeal — but in a fresh way. Artopia 2015 is a peace-and-love intervention, a deliberate embrace of beauty and joy that updates the California Dream for a new generation.
Along with the return of favorites like Bohemian Society's live body-painting and fashion-based performance art, and Debi Cable's Instagram-breaking 3D art environment, Artopia 2015 features live painting, one-on-one performance art, contemporary video, stunning murals, unraveling rainbows and an aromatic, irresistibly lovely mountain of fresh, local flowers. The audio atmosphere is in the hands of the one and only Jeremy Sole — friend of all things soulful, and so much more than just your favorite KCRW DJ.
Here are your 2015 Artopians:
Jeremy Sole: musician, DJ, force for change
One of the most prolific and ubiquitous music men alive, Jeremy Sole is fresh off a European tour and a compilation release, and is heading into a madcap summer of nonstop booty-swerving. But first, he’s laying a musical foundation for ?#?Artopia2015?. Since April 2006 you’ve been tuning in to hear him Wednesdays from 12–3 a.m. on KCRW, but he is also a perennial star in the dance-friendly nightlife firmament, regularly packing clubs, intimate venues and art-world gatherings with fans of both his turntablism and his live instrumental music-making. He even did a TED Talk on influencing people with the power of a good beat.
Freewaves: video art
The non-profit video-art organization Freewaves is all over the place — literally. From large-scale projections at the Getty Center to the smaller screens of public transit television, Freewaves not only seeks to bring the work of media artists to wider attention, but also believes that visual art is a powerful way to engage in social policy and public education. For Artopia, Freewaves designed a sculptural projection called Civic Statues Unfrozen for One Hour: Clothed Women and Unarmed Men, a two-channel loop of international short videos specially selected by Anne Bray, Freewaves' executive director, as part of its evocative explorations of human interactions in society. As a special side note, the newly fancified Freewaves Video Archive, which features over 400 video art pieces from around the world, will celebrate its official launch as part of Artopia.
Debi Cable's 3D Art Gallery
Cable’s hand-painted fluorescent murals create immersive environments straight out of a classic psychedelic opium dream. Whether or not enhanced by her signature 3D glasses, these cavalcades of flowers, butterflies, birds, and Buddhas are a visual carnival for your eyes, imagination, and Instagram feed. A resident of the world-famous DTLA Brewery Art Colony, and Burning Man regional arts director for LA, Cable's 3D Art Gallery has been featured at music and art festivals around America, including Lightning in a Bottle, Electric Daisy Carnival and Beyond Wonderland?. Back by popular demand, and bigger and trippier than ever, Cable’s 3D fantasy sparkles and glows inside the cavernous chill lounge off the main courtyard.
Mud Baron: #FlowersOnYourHead
One of the most special surprises this year comes courtesy of farmer, teacher, artist, and activist Mud Baron. His performance-based photography project #FlowersOnYourHead combines people’s love of fresh flowers with their love of being photographed. It was inspired by his work as executive director of the Muir Ranch at Pasadena's John Muir High School, where he oversees a hands-on teaching farm producing fruits, vegetables and an astonishing array of flowers. For the project, he carries exotic, Muir Ranch-grown bouquets everywhere he goes in the city, convincing friends and total strangers to be photographed with them balanced on their heads. Disarming, charming, and conversation-starting, #FlowersOnYourHead has shades of Frida Kahlo, Gauguin’s Tahiti, and Fantasy Island — and 5000+ Instagram followers. As a special Artopia beauty-bomb, Baron’s #FlowersOnYourHead is set to reinvent the party-time photo booth feature, replacing standard-issue vinyl backdrops with a botanical wonderland and choice bouquets for your digital and printable close-ups.
Amy Kaps: Unraveled in Rainbows
Amy Kaps is a multidisciplinary artist whose work in film, performance, photography and tangentially in clothing and installation design produces subtle and surreal experiences with socially savvy humor. A lot of her work is about defining the relationship between architecture and the body. With quirky muses from the black poodles of Goethe to the mid-century Berlin avant-garde and a fetish for opulent stripes, Kaps has performed and exhibited at festivals, galleries, stages and streets around the world. In her ongoing series, “Unraveled,” she begins by fastening one end of a miles-long ribbon to a starting point, with the rest of its length already wrapped around her like a spool. As she moves through the space and the crowd, the ribbon unravels, snags on doors, is tossed around people’s shoulders and pools on the ground to look like abstract paintings, creating a flowing series of intimate public moments. Previous color-themed iterations have included Unraveled (in White) for a white-themed gallery exhibition at Liz’s, and Unraveled (in Aqua) for the Aqua Art Fair in Miami. Inspired by the exuberant color riot that is the Container Yard, and the unapologetically joyful vibe of this year’s Artopia, Kaps is preparing the debut of Unraveled in Rainbows. Be sure to follow it.
Container Yard’s in-house artists, Vyal, Drew Merritt, Wyatt Mills, Robert “Dytch 66” Gomez
There’s no way to overstate just how epically cool the newly expanded and revamped Container Yard is. Located in the heart of the neighborhood's murals, posters and other public art installations, the venue is owned and operated by an evolving crew of the city’s best muralists and street-art painters. Its sprawling indoor/outdoor compound plays host to a kaleidoscope of painted surfaces, executed by the residents, their collaborators, and guests. Of special interest for Artopians will be new works by Vyal, Drew Merritt, Wyatt Mills, Robert “Dytch 66” Gomez, Mikael B. and Bumblebeelovesyou.
Mikael B.: live painting
In addition to displaying his work for the Container Yard, Danish artist and designer Mikael B. will be live painting at Artopia. The newest star in L.A.’s art firmament moves fluidly among various media, including colors, lettering, spray paint, brushes, acrylics, markers and even digital art — whatever tool is best suited to the idea. Vibrant and playful yet structured in form, his main aesthetic influence has been the intricate Wildstyle graffiti.
Marcus Kuiland-Nazario, performance artist
Marcus Kuiland-Nazario is a 25 year veteran of the Los Angeles art and performance scenes, and is currently spending part of his time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he is a co-founder of Oficina de Proyectos Culturales, a non profit contemporary art center. He is also one of the founding artists of 18th Street Arts Center, Highways Performance Space, Clean Needles Now, Pop Tarts performance lab and Max10, and has worked with REDCAT, Un-Cabaret and many other organizations. Marcus has been developing a site-specific work for the Container Yard, utilizing its unique architectural character to play with the idea of public vs. private art experiences and hands-on art-making. Performing both for the crowd and for intrepid audiences of one, Marcus makes his art from the raw materials of emotional human contact.
Victor Wilde/Bohemian Society: fashion-based performance art, live body painting
In 2003, Victor Wilde founded fashion and lifestyle label the Bohemian Society in downtown L.A., where he continues to live and produce his signature brand of post-punk couture. An emerging staple of international progressive fashion, Wilde's designs and custom pieces can be seen everywhere from Tokyo Fashion Week to MTV to the avant-garde stage. With a background in visual and performance art, Wilde approaches fashion as an artistic undertaking, incorporating painting, text, and sculptural assemblage. Bohemian Society just launched ?#?LEGGOYOURLOGO?, a ready-to-wear line and naked interview series screening at the event in which Angelenos discuss what fashion and style mean to them and to the world. Bohemian Society has also just released Sex Tape — a limited-edition fragrance that evokes haunting memories of the wildest night of your life. More details for their Artopia 2015 appearance are still under wraps, but Wilde has promised plenty of flesh and paint, including body-printed textiles created and immediately constructed into clothing as the audience watches — or, if they are so inspired, takes part.
Art supplies sponsor: Raw Materials
Offering DTLA’s finest and most artist-friendly supplies, Raw Materials is more than a store, it’s a pillar of the creative community, by locals, for locals. From fine art studio paint to the best in street-ready spray, Raw Materials is like family for sketchers, framers and all manner of free spirits. We are so thrilled they’ve returned as an Artopia sponsor again this year. We love you!
Artopia is at the Container Yard, 800 E 4th St., downtown; Thu., April 30, 8 p.m.-11 p.m.; $35 in advance through April 26, $40 in advance through April 29, $45 at the door, $30 “friends with benefits” pack when purchasing in advance in pairs). laweekly.com/artopia.
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