Mikael B’s vibrant, monumental new mural, Vivid Rhythms, on the exterior of Art Share L.A.—at the corner of E. 4th Place and S. Hewitt Street in the downtown LA Arts District—represents new energy for this vital and much loved Los Angeles non-profit art institution. The artist’s work, while contemporary and charged with color, also seems rooted in the past, bringing to mind the imagery of Wasily Kandinsky.
Lizy Dastin is an LA-based art history professor who studies contemporary art and urban practice. A passionate advocate of street art, she provided her perspective on Mikael B’s murals in an interview with Fabrik. “The new murals at Art Share by Mikael Brandrup are not only visually engaging but also holistically appropriate to the history of the space. The artist who adorned the building prior to Brandrup, Isna, is UK-born with roots in graffiti that he parlayed into a more aestheticized graphic design practice… Brandrup synthesizes this early exposure to graff[iti] lettering with a sleek, more polished graphic design sensibility, producing work that is chaotic but also controlled.”
The route Mikael B. has taken, to Los Angeles from his native Denmark, has given him the opportunity to travel farther and wider to make his work. As he said, “When I grew up in Denmark, my biggest inspiration was the graffiti and street art of Los Angeles. Moving to LA four years ago was one of my biggest decisions in my life and a dream com[e] true. And as fate would have it, one of my first gigs after moving to the city was doing live painting at one of Art Share L.A.’s events. Here, just a few years later, my vision was selected to lead the institution into its next stage of rebranding. With Vivid Rhythms I want to share my passion, my dream, the belief that anything is possible. Take chances, create your own positive flow and rhythm and attract the things into your life you dream of.”
Founded in 1997, Art Share L.A. took off with the conversion of a large warehouse into a community space with galleries, a theatre, and 30 affordable studio spaces. After the 2008 recession, its big dreams almost died until Cheyanne Sauter joined as interim director in 2013. Her vision, with the help of John Jason and many others, turned the place around. As a uniquely independent non-profit that owns its own building, the organization is sustained by its volunteers and donations big and small from entities such as the LA County Arts Commission, the Sister Karen Boccalero Arts Fund, the California Arts Council and Rock Robinson & Anna Browne-Robinson.
As Sauter related to Fabrik, “Art Share almost closed their doors seven years ago after being hit very hard by the recession. There were a few of us who decided to keep the mission and vision alive because, even then, we saw that many artists were coming to Los Angeles from New York, Austin, San Francisco and around the world. Rents were inexpensive compared to some of those cities and Los Angeles was being underutilized. In a few short years, Los Angeles’ creative scene has exploded and has welcomed so many creative people, galleries and new institutions to the landscape—The Broad, Marciano Art Foundation, Beta Main—it’s incredible to see the importance of art and culture increase in our daily lives.”
During its history, Art Share L.A. has always been about fostering creative change and growth, from taking on the herculean task of building and renovating the converted warehouse to the continued presentation and exhibition of cutting edge work running the gamut from internationally known artists to those getting their wings in the art world. As an exemplary part of that mission, the mural’s unveiling was celebrated at Art Share L.A. in late February.
As Sauter, explained, “It took Art Share L.A.’s team almost two years to select the artist to reimagine our building. We searched [for] artists that were internationally based, native to LA and local artists. In the end, we felt that selecting a local artist was very important, but that the[ir] being a native Angeleno was not a requirement. We have embraced the many artists who have moved to Los Angeles to access this amazing time of creativity and creative capital.”
Art Share is here to stay, committed to its future goals, which include “providing emerging artists with a roadmap to find financial success and to gain exposure.”
Just as Kandinsky followed his passion as artist from Russia to Estonia, to Germany, back to Russia and then finally to France, so has Mikael B. traveled to LA and beyond pursuing his. Whether despite or perhaps because of the myth of California, Los Angeles has always been a place where people are drawn to create, grow and pursue their dreams.