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Canvassing the City: From the Berlin Wall to North Hollywood

When the Berlin Wall tumbled in 1989, its Western side was covered with graffiti art. French artist Thierry Noir had been among the first to mark the wall with paint, he says.

“I lived very close to the wall. It was depressing — the death strip, watch towers and soldiers coming and going, that was my view,” he says by phone from his home in Berlin. “I wanted to change something. So I started to paint the wall. I wanted to make some [statement] against it, to resist the pressure of that life and the sadness.”

Artist Thierry Noir's “Freedom Boulevard" on the Lofts at NoHo Commons in North Hollywood.
Artist Thierry Noir's “Freedom Boulevard" on the Lofts at NoHo Commons in North Hollywood. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Now Noir — who has been working steadily as an international public artist for decades — has created a mural in Los Angeles, “Freedom Boulevard,” on the side of a stark white apartment building in the North Hollywood arts district. The 300-foot-long work, meant to mark the 50th anniversary of Berlin and Los Angeles as sister cities, depicts his signature elongated cartoon heads in profile. The images grew out of what Noir calls his “Fast Form Manifest” style, something he developed in Berlin during the ’80s.

“It was forbidden to paint on the wall. It was not an art project but a deadly border. So: Just paint and disappear,” he says.

Noir has created several murals in L.A. over the years, including one on Wilshire Boulevard as part of the Wende Museum’s 2009 project commemorating the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But “Freedom Boulevard” is his largest public mural to date. With it, Noir hopes to make a statement against border walls and to elevate the spirits of those who pass by.

Where: Lofts at NoHo Commons, 11136 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood

Commissioned by: MWest Holdings

More from the artist: “If, when you look at ‘Freedom Boulevard,’ you have one second of smiling on your face, it’s the best thing. I think that’s the first important thing to me. The second is, I did that style on a deadly border, so it’s important to note that on our side, on the West Berlin side, we were free; and on the East Berlin side, we were not. So it’s a statement of freedom. Today, there are a lot of crazy things happening in the world. So ‘Freedom Boulevard’ is like a defense, of course symbolically, but a firewall to protect Los Angeles against craziness of the world.”

Artist Thierry Noir's “Freedom Boulevard" on the Lofts at NoHo Commons in North Hollywood.
Artist Thierry Noir's “Freedom Boulevard" on the Lofts at NoHo Commons in North Hollywood. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin

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