Brandon Opalka was painting 30 foot murals by the time he was out of high school, but the rough and ready artist has been making waves at Art Basel. Wonderland talks to him about his crazy, conceptual murals.
Who is Brandon Opalka?
I go by many names! I’m survivor of a dysfunctional single mother and a crazy-ass bloodline. Basically, I’m a redneck with a city boy spirit, clever enough to convince my family it was worth it.
What do you do on a typical day?
Feed my creative spirit with life’s fascinating challenges as I walk with my thoughts playing constantly on repeat saying “get it, put it”.
What are some highlights of your career to date?
Working with Tony Goldman and Wynwood Walls was so amazing. I had just become a father and took on a full time gig at MOCA as Exhibition Coordinator. During the day I ran the crew at MOCA installing Mark Handforth’s show, and after I put Wyatt to sleep at night, go paint. That happened for over a month and somehow I found the energy to keep going. That was the most incredible and memorable feeling.
What defines the art of Brandon Opalka?
Setting goals, but always allowing myself the freedom to surprise. Kind of like some ambition with a shot of madness.
Is it important to you to continue to do both street art and gallery work?
I don’t really like the term street art. It isn’t really what I’m doing. Without the graffiti, my gallery work would have no presence. I started with graffiti, my friends are vandals and they’ve become my family over the years.
You often incorporate animals into your work. Is there a specific meaning to each animal?
My work is full of symbolism that has been created naturally through years of dreaming, when objects make it onto the canvas or walls they have already passed through a trip through my mind’s eye, picking up with them various personal memories. So I‘ve come to terms that the viewer will have there own trip to deal with, but while experiencing my work they are free from explanation. That leaves me feeling more fulfilled with the work, by not expecting a specific reaction from the masses. I almost have to disconnect from the work before I show it so my feeling can stay true to my spirit.
Do you personally collect art?
I’ve been trading and buying art ever since I made my first sale in 1997 in Miami Beach. Some of my earliest paintings are from Christian Curiel and Jason Ferguson. My favorite work is a painting by Robert Thiele. The painting hangs next to my TV— which sounds underrated. His work is so mysterious and that is hard to pull off. I find him to be a modern master. Thanks, Bob.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
I will be creating an installation called “Janigans” at the Art and cultural center of Hollywood in March 2013, named after my mother. The installation is a bar filled with TV’s, trophies, and fictional sports memorabilia.
Traveling and painting murals. Living this next chapter with a tad more wisdom.
If you had to paint a mural with the title “Wonderland,” what would it look like?
Animals, lots of animals. A mystic place with no sense of pain or sorrow. A happy place with lush vegetation, mostly of the rainforest variety. Very colorful, as if it had a sound track. Music is playing, something like David Bowie and the animals are taking a nap now. Goodnight, little furry friends. It’s all good!
Words: Heike Dempster