The vibrant, pop-arty work of Miami-based artist Alex Yanes features cartoonish characters that could pass as stars of an animated television series, or in fashion realms, call to mind the playful creations of Los Angeles designer Jeremy Scott.
Yet it is Rag & Bone, Marcus Wainwright and David Neville’s New York-based brand, known for quietly cool streetwear and a history of supporting street art, that commissioned the 38-year-old Yanes to create an installation on an exterior wall of its boutique on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The project is an extension of the 5-year-old Houston Project, a monthly rotation of murals by street artists created on one side of the company’s Soho store in New York.
For the Record
April 1, 12:43 p.m.: This post misspells Swizz Beatz’ name as Swiss Beatz. It also says artist Alex Yanes is crafting a totem pole to donate to Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School; the pole is to be donated to the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.
Expected to be unveiled today, “So Far So Good” took about a month to complete and is the largest and most permanent piece created by the artist to date, spanning about 70 feet in width and 13 feet in height. It will be on display for two years. Yanes previously created short-term, in-store works for companies such as Adidas, Vans and Neiman Marcus. His work is also available at Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City.
A layered collage of hand-painted, die-cut wood panels mounted onto the brick store exterior, the Venice piece includes palm tree and ocean wave motifs, sparked by Yanes’ upbringing in Miami, but equally at home in L.A. The artist’s signature pieced wood creations were originally inspired by California skate culture.
“I grew up skateboarding, but we didn’t have much of a skate scene or skate parks in Miami, so I would buy [San Francisco-based] Thrasher magazines, and everything was so California,” says Yanes. “I brought the issues home and said, ‘Hey dad, can we build one of these skate ramps?’ So I started working with wood. And I always liked to draw and paint. During my senior year of high school, a friend suggested that I cut one of my characters out of wood and that was when the skateboard [culture] and the art merged. I still do my work with the same, basic woodworking tools you would use to build a skate ramp.”
Yanes is fast gaining a star following thanks in part to Miami nightclub magnate David Grutman, an avid collector of the artist’s work, who showcased Yanes’ work for the celebrity guests frequenting his Sunset Islands mansion. Clients include Lenny Kravitz, Paris Hilton, and Alicia Keys and Swiss Beatz, who purchased a piece for their son, Genesis. In February 2015, just after moving into their Hidden Hills home, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West tried to order a piece in time for Valentine’s Day, but Fidelity Investments snapped it up first, according to the artist.
“I’m honored that Rag & Bone chose me to do this,” he continues. “I never thought I’d get to leave a piece of me out here in Venice, [the site of] everything I grew up wanting to emulate. ‘So Far So Good’ has to do with not giving up on your dreams. Looking back, all these people told me I could never achieve this. That I’d starve or go crazy. But so far so good. I’m doing all right.”
Upcoming projects include designing a print for an oversized swan pool float by L.A. company Funboy and crafting a totem pole out of hand-painted, stacked oil drums to donate to Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School in L.A. in May, through a program by Santa Monica-based Branded Arts.
At a time when some worry that the growing commercialization of Abbot Kinney’s retail strip is erasing the neighborhood’s arty authenticity, the message behind this multimedia installation may point to a happy new medium where emerging art and global fashion brands coexist.