(Photo: Gregory Bojorquez)
To Banksy, he’s “a force of nature” and “a phenomenon. And I don’t mean that in a good way.” Shephard Fairey describes him “an enigma,” albeit an “infuriating” one. His passport reads Thierry Guetta, but he prefers “Mr. Brainwash,” MBW for short. Whatever you call him, tonight he unleashes his graffiti-style, pop culture-saturated creations on Los Angeles in his first exhibition, an affair that he is staging himself in a former CBS studio complex on Sunset Boulevard. He has long been ready for his close-up.
Entitled “Life is Beautiful,” the sprawling show promises paintings, sculptures, and prints (200 will be handed out free to first comers), as well as an installation made from 100,000 shoes and an outsized recreation of Edward Hopper‘s “Nighthawks” (who frankly, we always suspected of having kicked off their shoes beneath that starkly appointed bar). Writer Shelley Leopold, who brilliantly describes the makeshift gallery space as “the faded mocha edifice that until last year housed CBS’s Columbia Square studios,” recently got up close and personal with MBW for an LA Weekly cover story that touches on how he went from making a documentary about street artists such as Banksy and Fairey to wielding the wheat paste for himself. “The film, meanwhile, remains unfinished,” notes Leopold, while “Banksy…is threatening to do a movie about the documentary Guetta never made.”
As for the “Nighthawks” homage, it remained a work in progress when Leopold visited and may tonight take the form of a pop art-infiltrated tabluau vivant. “I was going to put skeletons in there dressed as the original characters, but that’s too negative,” Guetta said. “I’m a positive guy! Life is beautiful. So my idea is changing again. Maybe I’ll get actors to dress up as Warhol and stand in there, or maybe I’ll break the window and make it an abandoned building—like modern times!”