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Sean Stepanoff’s Folk Art Poke at Silver Lake


As part of La Luz de Jesus’ five-person Laluzapalooza Jury Winners show, Sean Stepanoff’s first featured exhibition at the gallery, “Entitled Hair Cut”, is inspired by the colorful folk art of African barber shop signs and the local “culture” of his Silver Lake neighborhood. Stepanoff , a skilled animator, has a sharp, clean and dark psychedelic style, and is the creator of the large format, beautifully printed compilation art zine “Gristle” featuring contributors such as David Choe, Camille Rose Garcia, Tara McPherson and others, as well as publishing limited digest size publications such as “Freaks and Geeks” and “Eyesore” which contain his instantly identifiable drawings. Stepanoff provided the complete character design for Eminem’s ‘The Slim Shady Show’ & served as designer for a video project of Erykah Badu.

I paid a visit to Stepanoff’s Silver Lake home while he was working on the show in his living-room / art studio surrounded by records and art, snapped some photos and asked about his show.

Stepanoff, also a Wacko / La Luz de Jesus employee who creates in-store graphics for the shop, was guided to the concept for his show by La Luz de Jesus Gallery director Matt Kennedy.

I did a sign at Wacko for these African barbershop signs which are brought in by guy in full African garb, sold to the shop, displayed and resold to the public.

Inspired by Stepanoff’s graphic, Kennedy came up with an idea for a show, featuring “privileged hipsters” on African barbershop signs. Stepanoff took the concept of “hipsterdom” and rolled with it.

The African barbershop signs are created  in what Stepanoff calls a “naive style, which has a charm.” Stepanoff wanted to keep that charm; appropriating the concept by keeping it simple and displaying common trends. “In Africa they’ll do a Two Pac sign or an Obama cut” sates Stepanoff.

Stepanoff’s show is as local as you can get, featuring La Luz de Jesus neighboring Siver Lake icons like the Happy / Sad foot sign (a sign for a podiatrist’s office on Sunset which is a Silver Lake landmark; a rotating cartoon foot, smiling on one side and frowning, holding a crutch on the other. Some “hipsters’ belive that whichever side the sign is on when you pass by, will determine what kind of day you will have), Intelligentsia Coffee, Black Flag tattoos (displayed by people who weren’t even born when the band broke up), sacred geometry, headbands, etc.

“I’m trying to make it look specifically LA, not trying to make it look San Francisco or New York – though I’d love to go city by city, Portland, Seattle! I’d like to do Hall and Oats, looking at each other with their haircuts.

Stepanoff paints on found local wood, sourced from neighborhood streets and alleyways. Using acrylic paint on very porous uneven board presents a challenge to Stepanoff

“sometimes it’s so bumpy that you have to go over several times but it adds a lot of character and after I’ve painted, I age it; I take it outside and slide corners on the concrete, then bring it inside, put it on the hardwood floor face down, stand on it and slide it around. I want them to look just like the ones we sell, which have been outside of the barber shop exposed to the elements.”

Wacko / La Luz de Jesus owner Billy Shire suggested he run them over with a car.

At this time, Stepanoff has sold all but one of the pieces and his show will be up through August 31 along with José Rodolfo Loaiza Ontiveros’ “Profanity Pop” and works by the other four group show jury winners Allison ‘Hueman’ Torneros, JINX, Katherine Brannock and Frank Forte. Pick up that last piece before someone else does! Click here to check out his show as well as all the others!

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