Monopoly Money Makes Artist's World Go 'Round
Painter and graffiti artist Alec Monopoly is obsessed with Rich "Uncle" Pennybags, the mascot of the board game Monopoly. For Alec, this character is a reminder that money can both be the source of fortune and demise -- in the game and in our lives.
You will never see Alec Monopoly's face unmasked. While painting in public, Alec covers his face with a large handkerchief. Photo: Cory Allen Contemporary Art
In the Studio
Raised in New York and transplanted to Los Angeles, the artist splits his time creating art on the streets and in the studio. Photo: Courtesy of Alec Monopoly/Instagram
Getting Caught in the Act
Alec has been chased, caught and arrested several times by police for creating art without permission.
The illegal nature of graffiti and some of his street art doesn't faze the artist. "It would only bother me if I were chased [or] arrested for the idea of my work, than the act," Alec said.
"Other than that, I know when I put work up in the streets that I’m always subject to being caught. That vulnerability is part of the process and you just have to apply as much creativity to the process as you do the art." Photo: Alec Street Art via Flickr
Graffiti vs. Wheatpaste
Alec creates art through graffiti and by wheatpasting prints in public spaces.
Wheatpasting involves painting subjects on paper and applying the premade artwork to walls using a homemade glue that is usually water soluble. Wheatpasting is less destructive than painting directly onto surfaces in public spaces.
He explains that the medium he uses depends on what he wants to accomplish:
"If I want to place a detailed piece in a busy area, then I’ll probably use a wheatpaste, but if I’m commissioned to create a ‘legal’ mural, then I’ll probably paint freehand.
"It primarily depends on time allotted and what medium better identifies with the integrity of my work," Alec said. Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery
The Road to Success is a Game
One character is used over and over in Alec's work: Mr. Monopoly, a.ka. Rich "Uncle" Pennybags.
Alec uses the character in his work to remind people that the road to success in the real world is like playing a game of Monopoly.
"Sometimes the things that causes us hardship, could be very well, the thing that gets us out of that hardship," Alec said. Photo: Image courtesy of LAB ART Gallery
LAB ART Gallery
For Alec Monopoly's first solo show, LAB ART Gallery, which exclusively shows artwork by street artists, transformed its space into a larger than life experience of the Monopoly board game.
When discussing the references to Monopoly in Alec's artwork, LAB ART Gallery co-owner Iskander Lemseffer says it's easy to see how the game can represent real life situations.
"As you're going around the Monopoly board and you roll the dice, you never know what you are going to get," Lemfseffer said. "That is like life. You never know what you are going to get." Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery
Graffiti artists become famous by getting their art out on the streets. But the temporal quality of their work means at some point the art will be removed, covered up or fade away.
"No matter the medium, any work put up in the streets is temporary. That’s why I feel there is room for street art in galleries," Alec said. Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery
Andy Warhol had Marilyn. Alec Monopoly has Madonna.
Alec frequently uses iconic images of celebrities and fictional characters as subjects in his artwork, including Richie Rich, Donald Duck, Robert De Niro and Michael Douglas.
Here, he works on a painting of Madonna, transforming a photograph originally taken by Richard Corman. Photo: Courtesy of Alec Street Art via Flickr
If I Could Pick Any Mentor
"I never really had a mentor, unless you count the activity I was exposed to on the streets," Alec said.
"If I could have picked a mentor, it would be Keith Haring; a combination of brilliance and hard work."
Alec Monopoly, right, signs a transformed photograph of Keith Haring along with the image's original creator, photographer Richard Corman. Photo: Courtesy of Alec Monopoly/Instagram
Street Art Is Not Just a 'Fad'
After the release of the 2010 hit documentary "Exit Throught the Gift Shop" by legendary British street artist Banksy, everyone, it seemed, wanted to be a street artist.
Alec has seen this occur in Los Angeles firsthand. "I feel it’s great that more people are paying attention to what is in the streets," he said. "At the same time I am concerned that people are treating it as another fad and getting involved for the wrong reasons." Photo: Courtesy of LAB ART Gallery
Repeating Images in Graffiti
Why do street artists repeat the same images over and over again with slight variations?
"I don’t know if it’s more of street art encouraging repetitiveness than it is more of how our culture operates, Alec Monopoly said.
"People don’t generally look for art in the streets, but when your work catches their eye and they see it over and over again, they begin to pay attention." Photo: Alec Street Art via Flickr