Andre Miripolsky is an artist who has worked nonstop and full force for decades. Recently he’s crafted the Viva L.A. billboards all around town as well as a huge mural for the Museum of Monterey. And after visiting Miripolsky’s studio I learnt that there really isn’t any medium that Miripolsky can’t handle – he’s even come up with awesome slogans like Fear No Art and Hip & Tasty, the latter of which is the title of an animated series he’s been developing. Miripolsky’s spot at The Brewery in downtown Los Angeles is always the first place I check out during the annual Art Walk, so it was exciting to finally get to interview him.
Miripolsky’s ABSOLUT ad [sourced from Outsiders-Unite]
Daniel Rolnik: How long have you lived at The Brewery?
Andre Miripolsky: It’s been about 17 years now and I must say it has gone by in a flash. It took a little while for me to get used to living in downtown though, since I had always thought it was the antithesis of what Los Angeles was all about. It’s amazing how things can change.
DR: Where did you live in Los Angeles before The Brewery?
AM: I used to own a really fabulous word-class studio in Silver Lake, which I lost in the first economic crisis of the 1990’s.
A glimpse inside Andre Miripolsky’s studio at The Brewery in downtown LA
DR: So artists are affected by recessions too?
AM: Oh yeah, BIG TIME. Because with art it’s all part of the trickle down theory and even though the 1% has all this money, they are only really buying Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s while this whole middle-class society of artists gets neglected.
DR: How did you become part of the Absolut artist ad campaign?
AM: In the early 1990’s a painter pitched to Absolut the idea of using Los Angeles artists in their ads – because up until then, they had only been using New York artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. The company thought it was a great idea, so they came up with a 36page book named Absolut Artists of the 90’s, which was published in three different magazines. Five years after that happened, they contacted me to participate in what they called The Human Ant Farm where they rented a studio for three months and got a different artist each week to come in and paint.
Photo of Andre Miripolsky’s HUGE billboard in SF [sourced from Smart Magna]
DR: Did you end doing more work for Absolut after that?
AM: In 1997 they came back and asked me if I would make a billboard for them in San Francisco. And as it turned out, the particular billboard they wanted me to design was ranked #3 in a list of the most visible billboards in the whole country. Anyways I made the ad and the billboard was up for two years. People still recognize the billboard when they visit my studio during the art walk.
DR: How did your Viva L.A. mural come about?
AM: I was asked by the Downtown BID [Business Improvement District] to submit a mural idea to a company that owns a big white shell of a building on Figueroa, which had the potential to be an instant Los Angeles landmark. I came up with this idea to paint a 250,000 square foot pattern of a wave that I was going to write Viva LA on top of, but unfortunately the owners of the building weren’t ready for it at the time. Fortuitously though during The Brewery Art Walk last Fall, an executive from CBS’s billboard division saw my mock-up for the mural and thought it would be a great image to use on their new electronic billboards. So now my Viva LA design is running on at least 6 different electronic billboards in Los Angeles as a screensaver when they haven’t sold enough ad space. Man, this saga, it’s quite a story and completely true.
Andre Miripolsky standing behind one of the stained glass units part of his LA Historama mural
DR: What happened next?
AM: A friend of a mine in Monterey [CA] knew of the idea I had for another large mega mural that I was going to gift to the city of Los Angeles. It was called the LA Historama and was an illustrated history of Los Angeles in stained glass – it would’ve been mind blowing. All of my proposals had been approved up until the final city council meeting because we wanted to place it in City Hall where there is an ordinance that you can’t put anything permanent on the walls because of how it’s a historical landmark. Five months later members of the city council called me saying that everyone wanted my piece and if I could get the money together again they would find a better place for it – and they did.
AM: The West Hall lobby of the Los Angeles convention center, where there were 11 pre-existing shadow box panels that were left empty since 1928. So at any rate, my original plan to do a 750 square foot stained glass mural at City Hall had now more than doubled to 2,000 square feet at the convention center. And it was all set to go when all of a sudden they decided to build a new football stadium and my venue evaporated.
Photo of Andre Miripolsky painting the Museum of Monterey by Margo Mullen
DR: Did they at least offer you a different location?
AM: Funnily enough they came back to me with another potential location and it’s the best one yet. They are going to build a main gateway that they want to have public art on, and what’s greater than a stained glass mural representing the history of LA. It would be a major deal because they expect to usher in about 200,000 people at a time and set up LA as a convention capital of the US. However, in the process of putting together this latest piece, I got a phone call from the Museum of Monterey because they wanted me to make them a Monterey Historama. So I went up there and painted it within a time frame of three months.
DR: Did the museum of Monterey supply you with the facts they wanted you to use?
AM: They helped, but I did a crash course in Monterey history and had to do all the research myself. Thankfully though, Monterey has a wealth of amazingly deep and profound history – literally a few feet away from the museum is the first customs house in California…They have a 275ft long wooden fence that goes all the way around the museum, which I painted my wave motif on. That fence now I believe is the largest public artwork in Monterey County. It’s kind of funny how all this work came from doing one rejected mural proposal for the city of Los Angeles.
Clip from “100 Stories” Directed by M.D. Baer, Edited by Frederick Nelson, Music by Myron McClellan
DR: How do you feel about downtown Los Angeles now?
AM: It’s actually the great irony in my life that I feel more like a citizen now than ever before and it’s been such an amazing experience to be part of the renaissance that’s going on in downtown. Viva LA!
Elton John covering “Imagine” by John Lennon while wearing a costume designed by Andre Miripolsky