The Venetian (Beach) School

Before Arnold Schwarzenegger made it to Sacramento, or even to Hollywood, he could be found lifting weights at Muscle Beach in Venice.

Very much like its Italian namesake, Venice Beach in Los Angeles is home to the artistic and the creative. But unlike the artists from the original Venice, those of the Los Angeles beach town paint beyond the canvas, and onto the streets.

(Mural, Venice Beach)
(Mural, Venice Beach)

Amongst the street art found along the walls is Homage to Starry Night. The large mural replicating Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, occasionally the ‘tagged’ over, is found on the side of an apartment building, behind a ‘No Parking’ street sign.

(Homage to Starry Night, found at 1531 Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach)
(Homage to Starry Night, found at 1531 Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach)

The treatment and placement of the mural is a stark contrast to the reverence the original receives. But it serves a similar purpose. Van Gogh painted Starry Night from memory and invented part of the scenery as his response to nature. The cityscape was not an accurate depiction of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, but rather a portrayal of Van Gogh’s view of his surroundings.

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, June 1889. Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, June 1889.
Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Similarly, the street art found on Venice Beach is the artists’ and the community’s response to their environment.

Venice Beach is a place of extremes. One on side of town, one finds man-made canals and gondolas meant to channel the charm of Italy; and on the other, one finds Muscle Beach, a bull pen of oversized men working out. Luxury homes rest atop the hills bordering the beach, while fortune tellers, street performers, and homeless people crowd the beach promenade. And Homage to Starry Night embraces these dichotomies. It combines the etherealness and beauty of Starry Night, with the eccentricity of urban spaces.

(Street art in Venice Beach)
(Street art in Venice Beach)

To learn more about the artist who inspired Homage to Starry Night, visit the exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., entitled Van Gogh, Repetitions. The exhibition while run until 2 February 2014, before moving to the Cleveland Museum of Art from 2 March to 26 March 2014. If you can’t make your way over the US, you can grab a copy of one of Parkstone’s numerous publications on Van Gogh. Or if you are curious to learn more about street art, American Graffiti by Margo Thompson offers an extensive look at graffiti throughout the US.

-DR

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