Imagine what it would be like if the city came alive — if all the little shops in Downtown Los Angeles suddenly sprouted legs and began to walk around, talking and mingling with one another. It’s a pretty strange image, isn’t it?
But that’s exactly what happens in Gosha Levochkin’s 27 original paintings, including a collaboration with Los Angeles street artist Cyrcle, in Levochkin’s latest exhibition, “Cluster Mess” — a term he says refers to the clustered, yet amazing space of an urban city like Los Angeles.
Inspired by Little Tokyo, Levochkin’s ink and watercolor pieces come alive. Each one showcases a different aspect of Little Tokyo, including street vendors, meat shops and other compact city buildings that are personified as humans who interact with one another and make the city whole.
“I love the compact space and how amazing they make it,” Levochkin said of his inspiration. “It’s clustered. Clean, but sloppy.”
The most interesting aspect of the exhibition is the floating clouds painted on the gallery walls. The wires of countless telephone poles growing from these clouds connect every piece of art, representing the interconnectedness of the city.
And just like the motley ethnic composition of Los Angeles, the creatures that comprise this artistic and dynamic city are just about every color you can imagine — some a patchwork of bright, intense color softened only by its watercolor and sketch-like quality.
The style is quirky and cute, but also biting. It’s in your face, while innocently taking a back seat to the personality of Los Angeles.
In “Falling Meats,” a hunched-over boy with a meat stand protruding from his back doesn’t seem weighed down by the burden he carries, but instead seems bursting with energy as colors explode out of the stand and practically bounce off the page.
Color similarly explodes and creates new perspectives in “Fan Boy,” a hidden gem near the restroom that seems to take parts of the city and push them through a fan, creating a whirlwind of new textures, colors and emotions.
The works seem to grow in intensity as you make your way around the gallery. An especially eye-catching and noteworthy piece is “Cluster,” one of the show’s larger pieces, which was Levochkin’s inspiration for the entire progressive series.
“Cluster” is, as the name would suggest, a clustered painting with a lot going on. From the city’s flowing green hair to a street block with Japanese shops to amorphous blobs of color swooping their way onto the page, the painting represents the hectic, ordered chaos that is Los Angeles — and even, quite possibly, Levochkin’s hometown of Moscow.
Levochkin grew up accustomed to the big city. Though this is only his second solo showing, he said it has already been one of his most fun.
As for materials, Levochkin used his own, one-of-a-kind paints made by a Belgian artist — also on display in the exhibition — helping create the surreal, dreamlike cityscapes with a bright, yet soft color palette.
Though “Cluster Mess” is charismatic, Levochkin intends for the viewer to look beyond the interesting aesthetics and encourages the audience to learn more about the characters — to imagine themselves in the world he created.
It’s a goal that’s certainly accomplished. As you walk from painting to painting and scene to scene, the characters seem to walk along with you, telling you the story of the city, as if to say, “Here is a clustered street corner with shops as far as the eye can see and here is a struggling street vendor with his mind on business.”
While it’s definitely a more playful style than what we’re accustomed to seeing in galleries, it’s nonetheless a thought-provoking narrative of the city.
“I’m never thinking about color when I paint,” Levochkin said. “At the end of the day, [it’s about] pleasing myself, and I think I’ve done that.”