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Interview With Max Neutra For Taco Madness

Max Neutra Wall

LA Taco had a chat with Venice-born artist Max Neutra about his work, inspiration and life in Los Angeles. Check it out, then come see Neutra in action next Saturday at Taco Madness in Downtown's Grand Park.

Hi Max, first and foremost, what's your favorite taco spot?
Tacos Reyes in Canoga Park.  Not just damn good asada tacos, but free chips and salsa and friendly service.

And what brought you to LA, and what keeps you here?
A job working as the main AV tech for Warner Music Group brought me here.  Art keeps me here.

How did you start doing murals and how has your art evolved?
I started out doing a lot of live painting at events.  There was a lot of aggression, paintings with a lot of teeth and eyeballs.  Images that worked well for the punk rock shows I was painting at.  Perhaps the aggression was a way for me to find the courage to paint in front of an audience.  But I've been doing it long enough now that things have changed.  I'm not as angry, and more comfortable in my skin, and have found myself enjoying a balance of chaos and harmony.  My work is not nearly as aggressive now, but it still has some wild elements.

What inspires you about this city and how does that end up in your art? How about the other way around, what makes you sad/angry/crazy in LA and how does that inform the art?
One of my favorite things about LA is how easy it is to participate.  Anyone can dive into the art scene here and show work.  There is a constant stream of group shows and events, and most people in the scene are very friendly.  Now, whether you "make it" as an artist is another story, but at least people are given a chance to get into the game.  Something that bothers me about LA?  This may sound lame, but I live in Van Nuys, and there is a constantly evolving medley of abandoned couches, mattresses, and toilets left on the sidewalks around here.  This drives me nuts!  It makes the neighborhood look like a dump.  The way people leave their garbage out on the street so we all have to look at it everyday on our way to our crappy jobs.  It just seems so inconsiderate.  The opposite of what should be happening in a community.  We should be working together to make the place better, but instead, all the crap on the sidewalks reflects an attitude of "I don't give a shit about other people" and "Not my problem".  It's like the people living here, although sandwiched together in this crowded valley, are in denial about the fact that they live amongst other humans.  I got so fed up with it that I decided to try something.  I started writing on the abandoned furniture.  I thought that maybe I could add value, or at least lessen the damage that all this garbage was doing.  The idea is to write what I wished was there instead of the garbage, so I write things like "community pride' and "mutual respect"  and "consideration" and "good neighbors".  Is it helping?  Maybe not.  To me, at least it's more interesting than just a plain abandoned mattress.

I'm not sure how people are taking it.  They might see the messages as sarcastic, or graffiti.  The other day I was writing "Beauty uniting us all" on the bottom of an abandoned bed frame, when a man approached me and asked what I was doing.  I told him "I'm writing on this garbage."  He told me to stop.  That he did not want me to do it.  That I was wrecking the bed and someone might have used it.  I quickly pointed out that the bed was filthy, pissed on, and broken, and there was no way anyone would have used it.  I then explained to him that I was trying to help the community, and that I was trying to spread messages of positivity, and did he have any suggestions for other ways I could help?  He was not expecting this and could not come up with anything else to say except that he wanted me to stop.  This exchange worried me a little.  Do most people see these messages as a nuisance?  Am I making things worse?  If the phrase "Beauty uniting us all" is upsetting people more than a pile of garbage, then it's hard not to adopt what seems to be the prevailing attitude around here and say "fuck it".

Where do you go in this city to find peace and relaxation?
My ultimate place to decompress is the central coast of California.  But, if I need a quick fix in the city, my wife and I are members at the Huntington Library.  I am constantly surprised at how few Angelenos have been there.  Perhaps people are turned off by the hoity-toityness of it, or maybe they think gardens would be boring, but people are missing out.  The place is a smorgasbord for the senses.  There are many different gardens and sections to explore.  My favorite is the Dessert Garden.  The variety of shapes and colors that the cactus offer is staggering.  Makes you feel like you are walking through a Dr. Suess book, or a martian landscape.  Plus all the hummingbirds are fun to watch and listen to.  Ewww am I sounding like an old lady?  Seriously.  Check out the Desert Garden at Huntington Library.  It's a hard-core botanical punch to the face.
Do you have a lucky number?No, never had a number.  The closest thing is loud socks.  I call them Power Socks.  Whenever I've got a big gig (mural, live painting gig, whatever) that I have to tackle and I'm nervous about, I try to wear the loudest socks I have and draw power from them.  You might catch a flash of color peeking out from under the cuff of my black painting pants.
And what's next for Max Neutra?
Painting at LIB in May will be fun as usual.  Ooo and I'm releasing a new print with Cave in May as well.  Then my third solo show at Cave Gallery is coming up in July.  It's called Only Natural.  I always look forward to my Cave shows becuase they let me run wild.  This year I will be attempting some new tricks and techniques.  I am so fortunate to have a good relationship with Patrick and Tanya at Cave.  They have been a big part of my success.
Saatchi bunnies

This article brought to you in part by Blick Art Materials, an official sponsor of Taco Madness 2014.


Taco Madness 2014 is Curated by the DoArt Foundation.


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