The bright fluorescent colors of Stephen Palladino’s abstract cartoon at 276 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard North are a shock of aqua, orange, lime green, purple, blue and rosy red.
From a distance, this long south-facing wall appears to be a cheery puzzle of abstract shapes nestled close together, 17 feet high and stretching 95 feet wide. Triangles and oblong shapes, circles and not-quite-circles. Rounded rectangles, and many shapes like awkward objects in a bag.
But even at a distance there are recognizable human forms, also of solid colors. At the center, a curvy orange cartoon woman as tall as the wall. Toward the left, a tall blue man in a suit. On the right, a red slinky woman in profile, her hair in a bun.
If you move closer, these odd colored shapes resolve into detailed line drawings in black paint – done in Palladino’s distinctive style of squashed heads and distorted features, not unlike German Expressionism done with a sharply modern hand.
All the figures are precisely drawn – then painted in a single solid color as a shape, with rounded edges.
Other human figures include a rose-colored woman on the far left, with long curled-under hair, wearing a fanny pack. Beside her, a distorted, lime green gent in a bow tie who looks like an emcee, giving an act the signal to get off the stage.
Further along, a hulking purple man, in the middle of a fistfight. A pink half-woman, half-cat with teeth bared and a ball of yarn. A glaring, lime-green guy on a motorcycle, heading toward us, with a World War I German helmet with a spike.
Tucked among the colored shapes are words, in simple black paint. Some in capitals, some in cursive, some in a combination of both. Phrases like
The broke times.
No time for dreamin’.
Easy does it
I died just a little
Victim of Love
Ain’t it a Sin
Nobody but you
Never too sure
Stephen Palladino is based in Los Angeles. He creates work combining raw, expressive mark-making with tight, clean lines.
As a fan of cartoons and graffiti, Palladino creates characters that are slick and gritty, dark and lowbrow – all mashed-up with layers of popular imagery and dialogue. His work has been commissioned by Lady Gaga, the NBA and many other companies.
The mural faces south, in a busy commercial neighborhood, so cars miss it on this one-way street. Its colors complement the swollen rainbow-headed creature on the mural just to the left, by Alex Pardee.