Artists turn L.A. streets into an urban art gallery any music fan would love.
In 2020, the Sunset Boulevard scene–from Rock Row to Dodger Stadium–has dramatically changed as a result of the pandemic and the nation’s turbulent political climate. And the changes extend beyond just the physical sense of seeing the famous, once-glamorous and vibrant landscape covered in bland blonde plywood and political graffiti.
The biggest impact is the deafening silencing of the world-class live rock and roll music that always seemed to be a ubiquitous part of the Sunset Strip. Regardless of when you visited Sunset’s Rock Row, there was always an exciting rock and roll energy and spontaneous soundtrack permeating the legendary thoroughfare and creating an intrinsic connection with visitors.
Until this year, there was always music in the night air, whether it was the power chords of superstars like Lita Ford or local faves like Budderside emanating from the Whisky A Go Go, or the rockin’ retro sounds of Missing Persons or L.A. rockers Warner Drive (pictured below) shaking the foundation of the Viper Room.
However, while the temporary closure of the Whisky, Viper Room and Roxy is tough on everyone, there is some good news.
After enduring eight months of deafening silence, there are many awesome bands ready to rock the Sunset Strip–live and in your face–in 2021.
And in the interim, there are plenty of cool, colorful distractions continually popping up on the Strip courtesy of local and visiting artists whose creative work continues to uplift the gloomy mood and beautify the boarded-up blight of the Sunset Strip.
Some of the newest artwork spotted around the Sunset Strip includes commissioned murals, like the monochromatic pop-art salute to Hollywood paparazzi on the side of the famous 9000 Sunset building.
Also, creative street artists from across California have been busy adding a welcome splash of color and vibrancy to the once bustling thoroughfare. Under the cover of darkness, guerrilla artists have been transforming West Hollywood into a vast urban art gallery that pays homage to rock and roll and the musicians that have made the Sunset Strip legendary.
Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip has always been a magnet for creative types, and over the years a few street artists have even cemented their status on the Strip courtesy of skillfully-chiseled band names on the bricks of the Rainbow Bar and Grill.
And in 2020, endlessly-creative street artists are refusing to let civil unrest deter them from continuing to express themselves with some of the coolest artwork that we’ve seen on the Sunset Strip in quite a while. Much of the work is an homage to rock legends, and some of the art addresses modern times with a rock and roll edge.
Over the past few months, new wildly expressive, colorful and totally rockin’ guerrilla art has popped up all along the Sunset Strip’s Rock Row. However, because of West Hollywood’s thorough street-cleaning crews, the artwork is generally on display only for a limited time of anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks.
Fortunately, Sunset N’ Clark was there to capture some of the inspiring artwork whenever we came across it during our pedestrian ventures in WeHo.
Some of the most inspired artwork that we’ve seen recently addresses challenging modern times with a clever rock and roll twist that incorporates the solo-album portraits of the original members of KISS. The rockin’ retro artwork started popping up in WeHo over the summer, and up close, the images have a very cool glitter sparkle evocative of the solo albums’ Seventies disco-era release.
From Rock Row to the decidedly more glamorous Sunset Plaza, the KISS artwork easily makes passersby feel the New York groove of Ace Frehley and his bicoastal bandmates that also call L.A. home.
Frontman Paul Stanley added a vibrant splash of purple throughout West Hollywood, including on a utility box near Coffee Bean Sunset.
Drummer Peter Criss was seen keeping watch over Larrabee on a utility box near the Viper Room.
And bassist Gene Simmons surfaced on a light post adjacent to the Roxy.
The KISS legends–each safely wearing a surgical mask and social distancing–have been spotted all over L.A., reminding folks to mask up if they want to continue to rock and roll all night and party every day.
The Doors icon Jim Morrison has also been spotted on the Strip, near the Viper Room, safely wearing a mask. No glitter, but equally as cool as the KISS artwork.
Like Morrison, the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Flea is another L.A. musician with ties to the Sunset Strip who was also the subject of some compelling–and sparky–recent street art.
We spotted the legendary bassist spreading some blood, sugar, sex, magic all over Rock Row over the past couple of months, including on a utility box across from the Whisky.
Flea, who famously attended West Hollywood’s Fairfax High School, was also spotted on aWeHo light post near the Viper Room as well as on the back of a nearby street sign.
Down the street from the Whisky, the Roxy sports a decidedly cocky image of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.
In early October, the Viper Room became a sort of canvas for an trust who adhered a homage to let, great actor River Phoenix, who died in front of the club on Halloween night in 1993.
Also in October, a few days after the death of Eddie Van Halen, an artist brilliantly transformed a random bin near the Whisky A Go-Go into a “Frankenstein”-covered tribute to the Van Halen legend, incorporating his famous stage jump.
Down the street, one of Sunset’s billboards was used to pay respect to EVH and also used his signature “Frankenstein” design on a mammoth (see what I did there) display above the Rainbow.
Across the street from the Rainbow, a fan left a chalk tribute to EVH on the wall of 1OAK, which is the former location of Gazzarri’s, where Van Halen got its start on the Sunset Strip back in the late Seventies.
The artwork of world-famous artist Shepard Fairey has also continually surfaced on the Sunset Strip over the past few months. A huge poster calling for peace and incorporating his popular Obey iconography was spotted on a utility box set equidistant from the Rainbow and Whisky.
Fairey’s artwork was also spotted on the boarded-up Roxy .
And for a short period, one of the artist’s famous Andre the Giant graphics adorned a utility box in front of Coffee Bean Sunset, in the shadow of Tower Records.
Just outside of the Viper Room, a large dull utility box has long served as an ever-changing canvas for street artists.
Over the past few months, an interesting mix of new art has been appearing on the box every couple of weeks, featuring the work of different artists covering different topics. Some of the art is politically motivated, with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti the subject of one poster that was on display for a few weeks in the spring.
The utility box has also seen a revolving roster of rock-inspired art over the past few months, with tributes to KISS, The Doors and other iconic bands appearing over the past few months.
The Whisky A Go-Go is given props with artwork featuring a stoner Charlie Brown who is sporting his famous yellow and black shirt–customized with a groovy KISS logo–and giving the heavy metal salute to the Whisky.
The colorful rock and roll Peanuts character has popped up in various locations throughout WeHo, including on a Santa Monica Blouvard sign post outside of Barney’s Beanery. In the artwork salute to the legendary locale, Charlie Brown’s shirt festures The Doors, which is no doubt a nod to one of Barneys Beanery’s most famous former regulars.
Another ubiquitous sight around WeHo recently is a colorful call to action for the world to embrace unity. The vibrant “Coexist” text cleverly incorporates an unmistakeable letter from seven iconic band logos, including AC/DC, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, King’s X, Iron Maiden, KISS and Ratt.
Even electro-rock pioneers Devo resurfaced in 2020 to remind everyone how importsnt it is to vote.
And when it comes to voting for the next leader, we wish we could have voted for the late, great Lemmy Kilmister whose greatness was acknowledged on a shiny piece of artwork adorning a sign post near the Roxy that proclaims “Lemmy is God.”
Non-musical but equally compelling guerilla artwork celebrating everything from burritos to celebrity culture have kept popular street artists very busy throughout 2020.
Exciting new work by visiting artists Wrdsmth (above) and Fnnch (below), both from the Bay Area, have appeared on Sunset recently.
Long Beach artist Melanie Cristo added her creative touch to the Troubadour with a colorful, sexy mural that covers the entire front wall of the temporarily-closed club’s boarded exterior.
Keeping the rock and roll spirit alive on the WeHo/Beverly Hills border while keeping a watchful eye over Santa Monica Boulevard, a masked Paul Stanley was spotted on a pole in front the club, with the artwork’s purple glow melding perfectly with the mural.
The rockin’ street art that has popped up throughout the city over the past few months is a welcome distraction to turbulent modern times. And we are certainly looking forward to when the clubs reopen and live music returns and joins the visual artwork to continue to define West Hollywood’s title as “The Creative City.”