Walk down La Brea past the 99 Cents Only but stop just before the Best Buy to spot you’ll spot a warehouse saturated in various works of street art. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL! is proclaimed in big bleeding black and white painted letters. If you walk past the piece of particle board swaying in the wind that might have sealed the the entrance with some more duct tape, then ignored the “closed to the public” sign on the door, you’ll find yourself in the middle of work-in-progress art gallery.
I should mention, I happened to be there on one of the three dates a certain Mr. Brainwash (aka Thierry Guetta) of Exit Through the Gift Shop notoriety set aside to let any and all artists willing to make, display, then eventually destroy their work in his 80,000 sq. foot space. Bob Marley, middle-class angst, Pee-wee Herman and Haunted mansion- inspired mixed media were some of the countless clashing, yet communal themes flooding the soon to be demolished building in near west hollywood. Showing up somewhat late on the second day I’d imagined a scenario where most of the work was already done and opening day steam had run out.
Tons of work was already done, but steam had not run out. Here is a Las Vegas buffet-sized room plastered wall-to-floor-to-wall with posters, spray paint, sharpie, fridges and doors, (which were covered in posters, spray paint and sharpie) and dozens of artists were still buzzing around adding stuff. I wasn’t sure how they kept finding more space. The ceiling was becoming the only obvious area, but vertical expansion was limited by ladder logistics. I kept wondering who was officially supposed to be leaving yellow hand prints on the furniture, and who just showed up with cans of spray paint.
No one was. Everyone was. The furniture was brought by some guy a few hours ago and the collective instinct was to paint it up. I ventured away from the fumes of artistic freedom and spotted a stairway marked by possibly pre-planned “professional” looking graffiti , and wooden sign plainly stating DO N ENTE
But someone else had already tagged all over the walls. So I dunno what they were worried about me doing. So enter I did, into-
A dark room.
Occupied by empty chairs, spray cans and beer cans.
Someone else is here, but he doesn’t ask me to leave. I don’t ask him to ask me. “ I’m just looking for more space to paint” Says the man who I now know is not an art gallery authority figure. The dark room leads to naturally bright, wide open area, the color of dirty canvas. “Yeah man, you should just do it.
All this art is about not waiting to ask for permission. Maybe they’re just waiting for someone to else to start.”
I notice another stairway “Is this off-limits?” I occasionally question myself as I ascend a few more stories. I wasn’t really paying attention when they said four more levels, and even if I was, It was much more impressive to climb yet another flight of painted stairs, and see yet another giant empty room.
Did Mr Brainwash leave it empty for us?
Did he leave the option open, or even possibly hope, that the general Los Angeles/Hollywood area could produce enough pro-Bono artists to transform an eighty-thousand square feet warehouse into the world’s largest dive bar bathroom? In three days working 12pm to 4pm!?
The fourth floor opens up outside, giving me a roof top view of La Brea street. “THIS IS NOT A TEST” is stated in red on the building wall.
There’s this image I get of kids getting in trouble for painting all over the walls. You take those kids, with some vague notion of purpose, suspend the rules for a few days and every inch of this place gets covered in art.
I wonder how long it would take to do all of L.A.