The young painter Mike “Dabo” Lopez finds inspiration in graffiti and life.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
It is impossible to simply saunter past a work by local artist Mike “Dabo” Lopez. Take his painting “Happy Hour.” The frame is made of a series of metal squares that almost look like they have been riddled by bullet holes. Inside the frame is an image of beer being poured on a large man’s face. The man, disturbingly, resembles a newborn.
All around the man are nightmarish images of a beer tap decorated with three Xs, a few empty bottles filled with skulls, and the babyish man and a woman floating in a sea of alcohol. One of the most effective aspects of the piece is the sickly pale green and yellow paint of the piece that is reminiscent of fluorescent lighting, sleepless nights and vomit.
For Dabo, a 23-year-old artist who got his nickname from a bingo marker he used to draw with, “Happy Hour” succeeds by forcing the viewer to think about unpleasant issues.
“I want to show people the harsh realities of life,” he says.
Growing up in Riverside, Dabo says, he learned first-hand about how rough life can get. He describes friends struggling with drugs and gang activity. He also describes the time his studio was broken into when he was trying to pursue an art career in Riverside.
Luckily, Dabo’s father, who owns a refrigerator business in Southern California, got Dabo and his brothers interested in art at an early age.
“He never gets a chance to do art, so he got us into it,” Dabo says.
After high school, Dabo worked with his father for a couple years but realized his mind was not there during runs into Los Angeles for the refrigeration business.
“Every time I was at work, I wanted to be at home drawing stuff,” Dabo says.
Eventually, he quit, got a job at a Wal-Mart in the paint department, and started to hold art shows in Riverside. At the same time, he admits, Dabo started to get into graffiti art. After an incident where he was convicted of vandalism, Dabo realized that graffiti was not the way to be a successful artist—despite the fact that he still believes that it is a pure art form, since no artists really benefit from it financially.
A year ago, Dabo finally got fed up with trying to pursue an art career in Riverside—especially after his studio was broken into. After visiting his brother, a writer who lives in Monterey, the young artist decided to move here.
“I went to Monterey on a trip,” he says. “It was like a dream up there.”
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Luck struck on one of Dabo’s first evenings in Monterey. While selling simple ink drawings at the Starbuck’s on Alvarado Street, he met a young female artist who told him about the Youth Arts Collective, an art studio open for artists between 14 and 22. (Dabo’s work was first placed in the gallery before he turned 23, and he works there now as an intern.) Through the non-profit organization, Dabo found a place to paint and the materials to paint with.
Dabo has since been able to make some amazing pieces. In works like “The Glutnik,” where a man with three pairs of eyes stares at three television sets while listening to a radio, eating junk food and swigging beer, Dabo addresses how easy it is for individuals to get bogged down by trying to have everything, though everything the individual has is meaningless.
“It just shows gluttony,” he says.
In almost all of his works, there is homage to the art form that has influenced him the most: graffiti. Even on an untitled work, a framed skimboard covered with painted eyes, Dabo signs his name in a way that resembles a tagger leaving his or her mark in an urban environment.
“Sacred Heart”—a piece where a giant bleeding heart, made of formed steel, literally bursts out of the metal frame surrounding the painting—is a cross between Christian iconography, a cartoon and graffiti art.
Even more important than paying his respects to graffiti art, Dabo hopes to get people thinking about something other than their immediate surroundings. “I want them to think about deeper stuff than driving to work,” he says.
Dabo’s work will be on display at two places this weekend. On Friday, November 19, his work will be hanging at the Youth Arts Collective’s Art Show and Silent Auction, located at 550 Hartnell Street in Monterey, from 5pm to 10pm. 373-7443.
Dabo also has several posters on display at Outer Edge Studio’s Print and Poster Show. The gallery is located at 146 Bonifacio Place in Monterey. 655-2788.