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Street Artists Take Over an Entire House, Turning "Urban" into Urbane

Street artists Dabs Myla take integrated design to the next level in their ambitious Los Angeles art and commerce experiment at Modernica.

Is it a gallery show? A showroom? An immersive installation? A gift shop to exit through? A long-term studio residency? A cross-platform collaborative experiment foreshadowing a new creative economic model? The most clever integrated marketing strategy ever? Just another awesomely offbeat location for a large-scale mural in a random industrial tract?

Yes.

Street art and mural darling duo Dabs Myla take over a semi-abandoned historical building on the Vernon, CA campus of Modernica’s design and fabrication HQ in Before and Further, transforming the property into a fully-realized homestead complete with murals, framed prints, original paintings, sculptures, domestic furniture, fixtures, hidden rooms and price lists. Because everything in sight is for sale.

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view. Photo: Shana Nys Dambrot

Having decamped for LA from their native Australia in 2009 (a couple of years before MOCA’s 2011 record-breaking Art in the Streets exhibition), Dabs Myla continues to traverse the globe in search of any wall that will have them. But their LA roots are getting pretty deep. Among the friends they’ve made is Roger Gastman—a major curatorial force behind, among other things, the MOCA show, and a pillar of street art historiography. It was under Gastman’s direction that the impossible Before and Further project took shape.

“They were working on these paintings and looking for somewhere interesting to show them,” recounts Gastman. “Some people that I work with knew some people at Modernica, and thought that could be interesting. Then we saw the house,” and they felt it would be a great place for murals. A hybrid collaboration between the artists and their hosts evolved from there into a top-to-bottom integrated environment as the setting for a full catalog of gallery-ready original art along with chairs, tables, grown-up teepees, variations on Modernica’s famous George Nelson lamps, functional ceramics, screens, and modular units. There are also some nice surprises waiting to reward the more intrepid viewers, such as closets turned into walk-in black light chambers, and peep-holes opening onto Dabs Myla’s tucked-away art studio. And of course, giant murals.

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Photo: Kingston Photography

With price points from the low hundreds to the fancy thousands, their hope is that this cheeky blurring of every possible line between art and design, commerce and public art, and spheres of influence will not only lure street art aficionados into the design world but lure LA’s culturati to the downtown outskirts best known as the troubled berg of “Vinci” from the second season of True Detective. But then again, Dabs Myla fans are used to that sort of adventure.

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view. Photo: Brent Broza

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view. Photo: Brent Broza

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view. Photo: Shana Nys Dambrot

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view with Meditation Triangle. Photo: Shana Nys Dambrot

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view. Photo: Shana Nys Dambrot

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view with studio window. Photo: Shana Nys Dambrot

Dabs Myla: Before and Further at Modernica. Installation view in hidden studio.

Before and Further is open through at least November 15, 2015.

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