Loser Angeles Won’t Play Ball

Photos by Cory Hackbarth and Ryan Lumley

Who is Loser Angeles?

Aside from a bit of clever wordplay, Loser Angeles is a brilliant visual artist, a thrifter, a Bukowski fan, and for the purposes of this piece, Shit Art Club’s new exhibiting artist at their DTLA gallery. Sports mash-ups and kooky characters with disproportionate physical features make up the bulk of his new show SPORTS; a playful exploration of our obsession with athletes and the ideal physique. Bursting with colour and peppered with random objects—a banana here, a stripper pole there—his characters skate across the canvas in rollerblades, playing baseball, basketball, golf and football all at the same time. It’s fun, it’s completely unique, and it’s definitely the kind of thing you want hanging on your wall. I tracked Loser Angeles down to find out more.

Who is Loser Angeles when he’s at home?

When I’m not at my studio in Downtown Los Angeles, I spend time at my home in Ocean Park (the neighbourhood between Venice and Santa Monica where I live with my girlfriend Lucy. It’s a short walk to the ocean and we have a detached garage down the street that she uses for her studio. Growing up in San Clemente, living by the ocean is really important to me. I am usually fishing or surfing or skateboarding on curbs. We have a quiet park out front where I tend to be drinking beers. I read a lot of Bukowski and listen to Dead Moon records… and can be found playing the ukulele on the toilet. If you are ever in the neighbourhood and the garage door is up, come by and hang.

Your work explores the ‘oddness of the ordinary’. What’s something normal in everyday life that you find just a little bit odd?

I find most things in everyday life pretty odd. I think one of the strangest aspects of modern human life has to be the newfound need to broadcast their personal lives on the internet. The constant surveillance that humans provide each other leaves such little room for imagination. Conversations have gone from ‘what did you do today?’ to ‘I saw you were eating a sandwich and doing yoga on that large mountain earlier, that looked nice.’ Growing up in the 90s, my brother and I were dropped off at the beach by my Mom and picked up at sunset in the same location. Cell phones were not in the picture and life was simple. Breathing is pretty odd as well. I try to remind myself how lucky we are to be breathing in the first place. But we’ve been doing it so damn long, it’s hard not to take it for granted.

Was there a specific moment that the inspiration for SPORTS came to you?

SPORTS came to me on a trip to New York City around two years ago. I was skating aimlessly around the Lower East Side and ended up in Book Shop. I collect a lot of old books, encyclopedias and weird shit from thrift shops. I found a book titled Sports and Contemporary Illustrations. It’s mostly filled with black and white figure drawings of every sport, from horse racing to JAI ALAI. This compiled group of images made an immediate impact on the composition of my work.

‘Sport Chalet’

Your characters are seen playing sports that don’t exactly go hand in hand: rollerblading on a basketball court while throwing a baseball pitch. Did you have a reasoning behind this mash-up?

The beginning paintings of the series were strictly one sport, but after a while I found myself painting rollerblades on all of them. I am drawn to the spherical shape of wheels and sports balls, and how they can be interchanged. I believe the shape and colour of a painting are far more impactful than the concept or intellect, so I focus on the former. As Dr. Suess said: ‘I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.’ I think life makes about as much sense as art. We are all running around on a giant ball floating in space.

It seems like your style has always been character-driven. Do you remember what first drew you to that? Were any particular artists making character-focused art that inspired you when you first started out?

When I was born, my mom was an artist in New York City. Her paintings always had some abstract, character-based subject. By the time I reached high school, I was very influenced by the work of Barry McGee and Thomas Campbell. I fell in love with the disproportionate faces and patterns.

My high school art teacher Ms. Shafranski also played a huge role in the way I paint. She never took things seriously and allowed us to jump out of the classroom window to smoke weed, pretending not to notice. Throughout college, I was very interested in the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Katherine Bradford and Charles Bukowski. Most people don’t recognize Bukowski as a painter but if you research his work it’s pretty insane. These three very different artists were pioneers that endured heavy criticism. I greatly admire the risk that these three took, in staying passionate and true in their work despite the times they lived through.

Bimbo (Bananas)

Lately, I have been psyched on reading about the Chicago Imagists from the late 1960s. Jim Nutt, in particular, and how this group of artists from The Art Institute of Chicago created their own vessel to show their work.

What was one of the biggest challenges you came across when you were piecing this show together?

There were a couple big ones… I really wanted to build a large, physical sports arena. I used around 100 cinder blocks and mortar to build a wall that had sports balls concreted inside. Also, I used my humble 8-foot fibre-glass boat, Bad Tim, as the base to create a 14-foot-high roller blade sculpture with flames on it. I bought the dingy for $60 at a used tire shop in Santa Ana. The VIN was scratched out and needed serious repair to be seaworthy, so I figured this sculpture would put it to good use in the meantime. Unfortunately, now my boat now has six extra holes in the bottom in need of patching where the axels went through. Needless to say, Bad Tim has seen better days. Another issue was the number of paintings I had. This exhibition has work going back over a year, so piecing these together was tricky. Carrying 100 cinder blocks was kind of gnarly as well.

Out of all the artworks in SPORTS, which one makes you smile the most and why?

I think Cornucopia makes me the happiest. I don’t normally paint still lifes and I enjoy the combination of a soccer ball and a banana.

A sport you wouldn’t be caught dead playing?

Drone racing is pretty beat.

SPORTS is currently showing at Shit Art Club gallery at 130 E 4th St, Los Angeles, CA. You can book your appointment here. Bummed you’re outside of LA and can’t make it to the show? Check out the VR tour below instead.

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