Finding Design Inspiration in Los Angeles’ Public Art
Rarely does an art piece become part of its surroundings, part of its community. Tucked inside a gallery or museum, art is often hidden from public view, enjoyed primarily by ticket holders, art-book readers, and gallery patrons.
But public art is different.
Though created for visual pleasure, public art installments have an incredible ability to become part of their surroundings, part of their community. They become its soul. Imagine the Watts neighborhood without its Towers, New York without the Statue of Liberty, Chicago without the Bean. These installations help define their cities just like their cities define them.
From commissioned murals to sculptures to interactive installments, from whimsical geometric patterns to more intense statements about life itself, public art achieves a level of oneness with its communities and patrons that no other art form can achieve.
“It’s been said before but is worth repeating: Public art conveys that imagination is power. Public art is an expression of a community’s heart. Art is a creative expression that inspires creative expression. It’s a continuous loop that brightens the world and inspires dreams,” said Los Angeles– and New York–based artist Love bErto, whose many murals inhabit numerous Los Angeles neighborhoods.
It’s artists like Love bErto who make public art possible, even though they oftentimes disappear into the shadows once the pieces are complete. Some even live thousands of miles away from their installments, as is true for Colette Miller, the artist behind the worldwide Angel Wings project.
“Public art can become landmarks, points of interests, or can even give an identity to the community,” Miller said, “like Watts Tower, in L.A., which happened organically. He [Sabato Rodia] was working from the heart. Now it lifts the whole community there. To me, successful public art is in the intent, the sincerity.”
While public art inspires and embraces the communities it touches with thought-provoking yet public-appropriate messages, the art itself is anything but commonplace. The pieces that reach entire communities also can reach inside the home, inspiring interior designers and homeowners to bring that street look and feel to their spaces and wall décor.
We’ve pulled colors from the installments done by Miller, Mike Perry, and Love bErto, and created inspiring Pratt & Lambert color palettes that make up the heartbeat of this article. And we’re completely taken by their range. Each palette has the opportunity to be energetic or comfortable. Loud or quirky. It’s up to you, the designer, to get them there. To turn these street-inspired combinations into livable spaces for homeowners, office workers, and commercial buildings alike.
Perry, a New York–based artist who was commissioned in 2008 to do the La Brea Chipotle mural, explained how it is that public art, or street art, can inspire home design: “Everyone follows trends, and it’s the artists who lead things, so that’s the connection between the two.”
Perry, who is also the artist behind the graphics on Comedy Central’s Broad City, is quick to acknowledge the importance of patronage of the arts—of people consuming art, commissioning artists, and supporting artists’ careers. Public art’s foray into interior design goes hand in hand with that. “Ultimately, I think anytime any industry supports creative people to make the work they want to make, it’s pretty exciting,” Perry said.
Miller shared that she’s seeing the transition from street art to home décor in very tangible ways. “The mural and street-art cultures, which seems to be having a zeitgeist moment globally, are influencing us as we awake to the environment we live in. I personally think we take a piece of outside home every day, and I’ve seen many street artists’ works become actual prints or paintings for galleries or homes. I’ve seen murals inside homes or establishments, too.”
She went on to point out that “we are all influenced by our environments, whether subconsciously or overtly. Every day we go outside. And sometimes the first place you see fashion or art is on the street, where you live. It reflects the spirit of the times.”
One of the reasons that public art continues to inspire is because it’s constantly changing and evolving. It becomes part of its community, yes, but rarely is it stagnant. It changes and grows, much like the people who pass it every day. “One of the realities of murals, which also happens to be what makes them awesome, is that they disappear,” Perry explained. “They go up and then they exist for a while and then a building changes or an owner changes or the neighborhood changes or someone decides to vandalize it and the mural turns into a new thing.”
Love bErto, who works extensively with interior design, echoed the sentiment that the changing, evolving landscape of public art and street art can oftentimes inspire creativity. “I spend a majority of my time working on interior-design commissions, and often for hotels and private companies looking to liven up atmospheres. I have found collaboration with my clients from start to finish is key. Discovering what the client is seeking, finding what works [and understanding how] street and public art have influenced their vision. [Then I design] from these reference points hand in hand until the project is finished."
And many times, translating street art into inspiration for home décor or a commercial palette comes down to the colors themselves.
Capturing the Colors of the Street
The palettes found on the streets are anything but quiet. Rather they’re bold, pop art colors that make up electrifying combinations. They’re loud. Energetic. They take control of a space and transform it into something new and exciting.
And whether these colors form the backdrop of an entire home or are accent colors in a more neutral-based palette, the results are always stunning. There’s just something about strong greens, bright pinks, daring oranges, and unapologetic reds. They quickly take over a space and redefine it, giving the designer a plethora of options.
While we’re excited by the possibilities, we also know that for most designers, it’s the thrill of seeing how their work is interpreted and used by others that is the most rewarding aspect of any design project.
Love bErto may have put it best when he said, “What I want [my art to do and be] is irrelevant. My pieces will do whatever they do for whomever the spectator. That journey, interpretation, and takeaway, if any, is each individual’s own thing.”
So go forth and conquer, designers. Play around with these street-smart colors, and give interior design a daring beauty that speaks on an individual level. We can’t wait to see the results!