Saturday September 2nd, Designer Jeff Hamilton once again opened his studio doors to an invite-only crowd and to share the work of a diverse group of Los Angeles-based Artists. Tucked away in the heart of the garment district on Wall Street, is Hamilton’s sprawling warehouse, design studio and Art Gallery. Lit Walls projected his creations on the side of the building across the street to signify that there was something special going on inside. Otherwise, the neighborhood was void of life. The streets were dark and a few homeless people screamed in the distance. One would never know that hundreds of people had gathered for a night of art, music, food and drinks.
This show, like Jeff Hamilton’s past shows, featured an impressive variety of art from emerging and established artists, from the Streets of Los Angeles all the way to Pittsburg, PA. Leading this talented group of Artists was the primitive art of Basquiat-reincarnated, Johnny Otto. His massive work, stretched out over three 10’ tall walls, is at once primitive, but also definitively contemporary. The size and scope of his work is most certainly designed to grab one’s attention and hold onto it. While his work belongs on the pristine walls of museums and galleries, it would also be right at home in the streets, or as a cave drawing in some remote area.
While many, including myself, have compared his work to Basquiat, a side by side comparison would not hold up. It is just that there is little other reference in the last 30-40 years of contemporary painting. One can see the Neo-Expressionistic, wild-child, intense subjectivity and rough handling of acrylic paint and markers that Basquait favored, but Otto definitely has his own style. His figures are like massive fertility Goddesses dancing wildly and free. His work is clearly driven by an explosion of passion rather than carefully constructed details. There are also traces of Picasso and Haring and African Art in general. It is not what one would normally call “fine art’ and certainly doesn’t have the obsessive details of Fine Artists, but does that mean it’s not Fine Art? His colors are bold and prime. The black lines look like chalk scribblings. He had fun making this gigantic piece and it shows in every stroke. You feel happy and overwhelmed at the same time, when surrounded by it. In reference to Johnny Otto’s art, fellow Artist Amber Christianson said, “I see a postmodern man shaking off his false identities and dancing naked in front of the primordial fire.”
Also taking over the floors of the gallery was Meghan ‘M’ Hall, an Artist who incorporates small black “signs” or “symbols” into her work that are reminiscent to Keith Haring and a more modern, RETNA. Her work belongs as designs on furniture and clothing as much as it does on walls or canvases. M’s rise in the street art world began 6 years ago when she secretly started tagging alley ways and walls. It wasn’t until a year ago that her work was discovered by Jeff Hamilton, who in turn gave her a platform to draw freely for the public to experience. Meghan Hall grew up in Southwest Virginia. At 2 years old, Meghan started creating doodle drawings that ultimately would lead to more in-depth designs that would take on a life of their own. M’s presence could be felt throughout the gallery, as she is definitely a leader of the pack and destined for great things.
One could not enter the gallery space and not be immediately over-powered by the bright and vibrant work of Lucas Rome aka MR MK Ultra, who started doing urban Graffiti Art as a teenager. His passion for street art lead him to creating breathtaking murals for private residences and businesses. His weapon of choice is an airbrush gun and hyper-colorful acrylic paint. His subjects are wildly-imaginative mosaics that blend the surreal with the real. Sharks, sea creatures, lizard people, unicorns, celebrities, aliens, ufo’s, illuminati and gross pictorials of politicians and the elite, all make their way into his wild wild world. It must be fun in his brain. And colorful.
Another stand out for the night was Johnny Quintanilla, also known as Zurdo, a Los Angeles-based artist whose work puts an unorthodox spin on traditional South-America and Mexican Art. Like Frida Kahlo, whom he incorporates as stencils into much of his work and even re-imagines as a cat, he is a Surrealist or Magical Realist. He puts a bit of a Pop Art spin on traditionalism. “Lately, my work has included various animal drawings covered in color displaying death and rebirth. Through this series I challenge the audience to question the rooted fear of death providing an alternative emotion, peace of mind. My work continues to be a pillar for illustrative story telling, pop art and surrealism.”
Other prominent forces included Carlos Sosa, Theodosia Marchant, live painting by Isaac Pelayo, M!scre8, Snipt and Ryan Fisher. DJ NoraWay turned the second half of the night into a dance party, as the lights dimmed and the freaks took over the dance floor. Sponsors for the night included Caligold, Sprig, Medmen, Fathom Gallery, Moby Arts, Movida Oils and Sugar Press.
by Charlie Anison