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Aficionados of Los Angeles street art might recognize the now-familiar work of one “Mr. Brainwash,” a.k.a. MBW, a.k.a. Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker turned graffiti provocateur. Over the past few months, Mr. Brainwash images have become ubiquitous in greater Hollywood, evolving from the Banksy-style black-and-white stencils of a guy wielding a movie camera to repurposed reproductions of Elvis, Hendrix, Gandhi and other cultural icons, including the giant spray-paint can rebranded, à la Andy, as Campbell’s Tomato Spray. These MBW specials are wheat-pasted up and down the La Brea corridor, the Miracle Mile, Melrose, Fairfax . . . anyplace with an unadorned utility box or blank wall.

Check it out here.

0 thoughts on “Mr. Brainwash Bombs L.A.

  • June 13, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    I am very intriguied by Mr. Brainwash and I am anxious to see what the show is all about. You can get all the information about the show on the website: http://www.artshow2008.com.

    This show is not to be missed!

  • June 25, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Like John D. Rockefeller Claiming to be Diego Rivera

    Most people familiar with art know the story of Rockefeller commissioning Rivera to do a mural for Rockefeller Center and then, unhappy with the anti-capitalist themes, having the mural painted over. Rockefeller paid Rivera, bought the work and labor and design from him, thus, he could do whatever he wanted with the product. Maybe, if Mr. Rockefeller were alive today, instead of having workmen destroy Rivera’s art with whitewash, he would grab a spray can, splat some paint onto the workers’ faces, and claim the “finished” work to be his own.

    This week, hanging out every day at Mr. Brainwash’s mega McGallery, it took me a few days to notice a crew of workmen (yes, all male) hanging out, building, painting, hanging “art,” and filming. By my fourth day at the gallery, I had picked out who seemed permanent… and when I witnessed a young guy come outside to the courtyard and spray paint, I got a hunch that something was rotten in France. I hung back in the corner as this young guy with a faux hawk expertly tagged a table and then tagged the two guests books handed him. My days of hanging around and my ability to be unnoticeable (I am short bald guy that has the uncanny ability of disappearing into the background) paid off. I cornered several of the workers and found out who was who, who did what, and what was the real shuck and jive.



    The “saddest” artist in the world

    According to some of the actual people involved, “conceptualizing” is far too strong for what Mr. Brainwash does. It is more along the lines of: here is a pile of cast off material, do something with this – and thus his hired artist does. For further “illustration,” more along the lines of a patron asking a portrait painter to paint her portrait – no one would ever confuse the subject of the portrait with the painter of the portrait. No one would proclaim the brilliance of the subject for suggesting she be portrayed. In short, this is Mr. Brainwash’s schtick – he gives a loose direction (no design, no overarching theme, no attempt at coherence or style or comment) to an artist or craftsperson he has hired to create a work of art. How the artist interprets and renders this loose direction gets left entirely up to the artist. In some instances, Mr. Brainwash has splatted some spray paint on top of what his hired artists rendered. In others, not. And, if, like me, you viewed the show and grasped for what the thread among the works would be and could find none, you were right because the work was all done by different people largely left on their own to do the work. You know, like commissioned, rather than overseen. Yesterday, I even witnessed a fake studio be built upstairs ostensibly as a re-creation of his own. How sad is this? What prompted him to display, see, I have the toys to do this if I wanted to!

    Now, in earlier eras, like in Mr. Rockefeller’s and Diego Rivera’s day, this was known as patronage and usually done to support up and coming artists. Certainly, sometimes patrons suggested to artists what and whom they might render. No one, though, confused the patron and the artist. But fast forward a century, and Mr. Brainwash is asserting himself as an artist, just because he had the kernel of an idea. Usually, in other fields such as screenwriting or movie-making, laying claim to an idea is laughed out of court. “But your honor, the hot chick and the gun in that movie were my ideas!”

    Basically, Mr. Brainwash is a very wealthy guy who wants to buy his way into the art world as an artist, not as a patron. He does not need the money this art show is bringing in as evidenced by the lack of a price list and a printed catalog, the extreme disorganization of the selling such as amateurs handling the art and how no prices are listed next to the menagerie in his main gallery. The first two days, no price list existed, and still, as of Saturday, none had been printed. In short, this whole exercise is one Napoleonic sized vanity project.

    So why do this? Why does a guy go to all this trouble to pose as an artist, or rather, assert he is an artist, when he is not? I am reminded of Breakfast at Tiffany’s line about Holly Golightly — Q: Is she real? A: She is a real phony. That is, I asked people involved in this for months if this is a Marcel Duchamp hoax and they insist, no, Mr. Brainwash really believes. As a man, I can only wonder what sadness lurks in this fellow’s heart at not living up to someone else’s expectations. Is this a “Daddy thinks I’m a hapless boob so I’ll show him” kind of trip? Is success more important in the end in this guy’s heart than achievement? Does he really believe he can co-opt other people’s talent and one day he’ll magically awaken with some of his own?

    The most shocking thing I heard all week was from a man that said Mr. Brainwash said of all this art that he’d been doing it for ten years and just hoarding it. One simple test would prove whether this is true – invite in journalists to his studio to watch him work for a week and create another “masterpiece.” Come on, Mr. Brainwash, it’s worth it. Like any man worth his street cred, you’ll step up to defend your rep – you’ll take a punch and come back swinging. Give us your best shot. Let’s see you, by yourself, at work for a week.

    Sadly, the truth is Mr. Brainwash really wants to be an artist; the fact is, he is not. In fact. these people created most of the work you saw (and imagine if this show were to support these real artists, like a true patron would, rather than to promote Mr. Brainwash):

    The graffiti on the urinal courtesy of: http://www.stinklikedog.co.uk/

    The Campbell’s spray cans, the gargantuan paper bag (apparently already slotted for a museum display), the Rubik’s Cube, the piles of books, the TV robot, the hanging shoes (ostensibly, Mr. Brainwash is so unversed in actual street culture that when he decided to hang the shoes he did not know of their drug dealing reference), and lots of other cool built stuff: http://www.newcaliforniacraftsmen.com

    The cool paint splotches on the wall and the superior layout for the art was done by Mr. Brainwash’s brother Patric

    The super cool person made of film cans, the octopus hanging from the ceiling, and an assortment of other great sculptures. You can clearly see the line between the sculptures on display and this guy’s personal aesthetic and style. Take a cruise under sculpture: http://www.derekwalborn.com

    An assortment of local Los Angeles tag teams and graffiti artists (you know who you are)

    and, as far as I could find out, a lot of the Warhols, the prints, the record shard collages, etc. were done by the faux hawked kid I mentioned earlier in the article, one Roman Lefeburte about whom I could find nothing on the web. Apparently, he is Mr. Brainwash’s right hand (and also in this case, his left hand) dude, who does most of the art not done by the folks already listed above. He also reportedly is slated to get a cut of the profits on the work he did, or should we instead call it pay-off money?

    I asked several of the American artists if doing their work and having it sold as Mr. Brainwash’s was what they thought they were getting into when they signed on. No – they had expected an art factory of sorts, where someone actually gave them designs…

    And this list here is probably not comprehensive, but it is what I could find out by talking to folks and watching the goings and comings in the gallery.

    Yet, you may ask, at least he discovered great artists and gave them a chance, right? And where might Mr. Brainwash have found most of these talented people?

    Where does everyone else in this town find someone to pay to screw?


    Yes, he recruited most of these folks through ads on Craigslist. Yep. For real.

    Okay, okay, you say, so what? So what if the guy is a real phony? “His” “work” makes people happy. My take, after seeing this work again and again, not “his” “work” BUT the famous folks in “his” “work” or the ones he stole from make people happy. More than once I heard people say, “How much does the Bowie cost?” or “Look, there’s a baby Michael Jackson.” The happiness they were getting, I assert, was not from Mr. Brainwash’s “art,” but from seeing the faces and things most (well, most male ones anyway) Americans already know and love: Larry King, Marilyn Manson and Monroe, The Beatles, Britney, Madonna, Scarface, Jimi, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Mohammed Ali, Elvis, guns, stuffed animals, lesbian kisses, Billie Holliday, the Rubik’s Cube, Bowie, Jagger, Andy Warhol’s art, Keith Haring, police cars, books, Alfred Hitchcock, W. C. Fields, Run DMC, beer, etc. The whole experience has about the artistic merit and appeal of a trip to Madame Toussaud’s, except that the replicas here are cast with vinyl and paint instead of wax. Modus operandi: entertain with that which is already entertaining.

    As for any more sophisticated commentary, the beer cans packed with “crude” oil (Petrol Light) were the only things vaguely political in the whole show. The rest was like watching a “Remember the 30s, uh, the 40s, uh, the 80s, uh, last year” episode on VH-1, many, “damn, do you remember that?” moments, and the associations into one’s own experience with the pop person or object, rather than with Mr. Brainwash’s “art.” And, no, from watching Mr. Brainwash at work, I do not think internal fantasy escape on the part of the viewer was his intent. Frankly, his intent was to become a famous artist by using other people’s fame, artwork, and new work to do it. And his ploy to become famous is working: MTV wants him to be in a video and from the information I gleaned on my last trip through, LACMA met with him about a show.

    Not to say that over the course of this pageant I didn’t see a lot of people smiling. People commented positively to me that they felt welcome here – it didn’t feel stuffy or like what they expected from an art show – uptight people drinking wine. They felt that what they saw was accessible (again, the show is in Hollywood – around the corner from other tourist attractions designed to be crowd pleasers). For sure, many people attended this art show that normally would not go see art…. or make it Downtown to the Thursday Art Walk or over to Culver City to the galleries. Of course, I am happy to see people happy — but for the most part this really is the kind of happy one gets from finding a really great fake Gucci bag and passing it off as real, or, frankly, to folks who wouldn’t ever know the difference (or care). They like the name, the flash, and the bling regardless of how it gets dished up.

    For the record, Mr. Brainwash has decided to extend this self-aggrandizing hoopla one more week, so if you didn’t catch his lack of cache last week, you can see the works of the artists mentioned above this week, June 26 – 29.

    Article by Juan Rodriguez

  • June 26, 2008 at 5:16 am

    yeah , yeah , yeah been there done that 20 yrs go ! same old shit, same old icons , put a gun on it (not even an AK47) and everyone thinks its really crass ! wow outsider art or insider art ! elvis. monroe, another stencil , another carefully applied paintdrip ! surprised there wasnt a sid vicious (maybe there is ) hey why not do che – thats really original . maybe nothing is original – or maybe try and be original by sourcing your ripped material in a slightly more original way , blah blah blah blah really bored now
    this ting is really out of control now – i’m just going off now to get some cotton wool to pull over my eyes

  • June 28, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I cant believe how many times you reposted that article Juan……

    The fake here is actually this “Juan Rodruguez”. If you people want to really know whats going on, here’s the deal:

    Jaun Rodruguez, is not a short fat bald man, who disappeared into the background while we were working, because I talked to EVERYONE involved with this show, and this rant that Jaun goes on makes it crystal clear to me, that someone is out to expose MBW.

    But guess what? You cant. It is true I built that giant paper bag, We worked our asses off making a giant pile of books, and 3 giant spray paint cans, Did you really think that one man could do all of this? With a broken foot at that? Of course not.

    I have been working on this show since April when I met MBW. He came to my shop and talked about the ideas he had for this crazy art show. They seemed far fetched, but I told him anything is possible. My buddy Adam (who introduced us) and I made the first giant spray can, and brought it to him. Then MBW realized that we too were artists, and he could see that we were perfectly capable of bringing his ideas to fruition, without strict direction. Yes we even bounced ideas back and forth, in improved upon the things that he had already conceptualized.

    I have worked with this guy for the past two months, and I can assure all of you people, he IS an artist, just like the rest of the team that set out to produce this show. The amazing part is, none of this would have happened without this man’s vision, and its very true, that it wouldn’t have been such a huge success without the team of artists, that he recruited from yes, Craigslist. Juan says that like its a bad thing, but look at the outcome. Who knew that this group he whipped together would work so well with each other, and be able to pull off what is now turning out to be one of the hugest art spectacles LA has seen in years? In fact, our whole team is planning on working together again to create more incredible art experiences, in other cities. MBW is a machine, and our team is the oil that keeps it going.

    As far as copying work goes, yes alot of the imagery existed before it was put on a canvas or print in the gallery, in fact most of it did. Thats the point of the work, He is taking cultural icons you see everyday, and mixing them together to make you think, remember, become nostalgic. You know who else does something similar? Shepard Fairey. http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm. But who cares? That is a common practice for artists and designers. Shepard is inspired by old propaganda, and MBW inspired by pop culture, both of these guys are talented artist, who deserve to be respected for what they are trying to do in the art world. If you think mbw isnt an artist, you should study up on Duchamp, he could barely draw, most of his work was found objects he just signed. And what educated artist cant recognize his name?

    Brainwash’s show is titled “Life is Beautiful” There are no negative icons, or imagery in the whole gallery, the experience you have when you enter the space is meant to be a positive one. Shame on you “Juan” for trying to turn this into something negative.

    What was accomplished by this man was not all the art in the space, that’s crazy to even think of one man taking on. It was the fact that he got all of us to pool together our collective thoughts and ideas, and directed us well enough to work together, and create the show in such a short amount of time. The man deserves praise, he doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. All he wants is for people to enjoy an art experience, and for people to be happy. Frankly, I’m more than proud to say I helped, and was a part of it. But i really didn’t need credit for the work, I’m just happy to see people enjoying it.

    If anyone has any questions regarding any aspect of the show, feel free to ask me personally, justin@newcaliforniacraftsmen.com.

    As far as Juan is concerned, I’m sorry about whatever it is that filled you with so much animosity that you had to blog all over the Internet about MBW being a fake. You should try and relax a bit and enjoy LIFE, after all it IS just art, and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.
    Oh, and no matter how hard you try, you cant stop what MBW has started, because we wont stop.

  • June 30, 2008 at 4:33 am

    Hey Justin..Did you also build that lame-ass scooter he has pushing around? Oh Yeah..Does MBW pay for the vaseline?

  • July 2, 2008 at 4:47 pm


    A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.

    Susan: You know, Kevin from accounting is doing very well. He just bought a house in a very nice part of town.

    Jane (hater): If he is doing so well why does he drive that ’89 Taurus?

  • July 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I loved the show, it made me smile a lot but and this is a big fat spotty butt, MBW is charging stupid money for this eye candy and needs us to validated his “art” by buying into him and his concept.
    I overheard that one print was sold out, then two minutes later the sales girl offered that another short run be done to satisfy demand. And at $2500 a pop.
    Banksy & OBEY both bring fresh ideas to their art, MBW is an AD man turned artist for the big bucks.
    Still loved the show.


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