in·tu·i·tion: the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
If there could be only one word to describe the formation of Robert Vargas' work it would be intuition. His creations are all free hand and guided by the way he thinks they need to be, like the images exist before he gets there and the wall was just waiting for him to paint. But it's not just the paint that manifests Vargas' creations it's the people that fill in the metaphorical gaps around every edge of every mural. Whenever and wherever Vargas creates there needs to be an audience, there needs to be witnesses who not only see what he is making but then interact with each other and that interaction feeds his work. The laughter, the conversations. In a way watching the paint form a face or the charcoal mirror the subject gives the public a learning experience you just can't duplicate on youtube, they are there though.
With Vargas' recent mural of Mike Muir of the band Suicidal Tendencies, he challenged himself to the creation of not just this massive mural that expanded over the side of the Skanska Construction Building on the edge of the Arts District but simultaneously he created a mural for Trinity Elementary school in South Los Angeles. During the day the kids got to watch an artist at work and in the wee hours of night Vargas rocked out to heavy metal and opera to complete the Muir mural. It was as if the shadows that played on the wall duplicating his presence represented the number of painters at work, two sometimes three would follow him around.
Mural: Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies (south side of building)
The streets of downtown Los Angeles are home to Robert Vargas in more ways than one. At the corner of Spring Street and 7th Vargas sets up a tarp just below his mural 'Our Lady of DTLA' to continue an ongoing project titled 'Portraits of the World.' This project doesn't just happen in Los Angeles, Vargas has traveled all over the world and set up the same outdoor studio to capture the faces of as many people as he could to truly make this project live up to its title. With every session on the streets Vargas selects a person at random, sits them down and whispers to them instructions and then he creates. His movements are so fast as the hands of a clock move he is finished and the subjects stand and stare at their mirrored self-drying on the sidewalk.
Mural: 'Our Lady of DTLA' (Building)
In addition to creating art, Robert Vargas promotes the art of others as well during his Red Zebra parties held at the Crocker Club in downtown Los Angeles. Recently restarted this year these art parties, meant to repeat quarterly, host a fashion show, a live tattoo artist, performers and some great music all within the walls of a former bank. And of course, a stage where more 'Portraits of the World' can be created.
As with any artist, there are moments where private commissions are requested and this night at Seven Grand was one of those portraits. Set up in front of a live band it was as if the setting wouldn't be complete without music to accompany Vargas as he drew on the floor. Knee pads ready and the light just right charcoal flew along the paper and erasures sat alongside the canvas ready to subtract the edges to create the final image. His hands glide over the portrait with quick wit all connecting with the form that was meant to be. And again surrounding him as if called by instinct the crowd, initially there for the whiskey, started to form. They watched and marveled and of course asked who he was.
Paint is Robert Vargas' conversation with the city of Los Angeles and the world. The brushstrokes are his sentences and the buildings his paragraphs, the public's reaction is the response to everything he says with paint. So the next time you see a mural in Los Angeles stop and consider not just the hard work it took to make but consider the message within the design, within the colors and within the location that was meant to be seen by you, the public.
Murals: Robert Downey Jr (Swimming Pool), The Doors (Courtyard), Tony Alva (Outside on Building)