Illustrating L.A.’s Rock History"I moved to L.A. seven years ago to be exposed to all the crazy, nutty characters who are out here. And, voila, they’re everywhere!"
Artist and L.A. bon vivant Kii Arens has a persona that's as quirky as his eye-catching concert posters. We sat down to talk with this former son of the Midwest, who moved to Los Angeles to soak up the city's colorful quiltwork of characters and cultures and in the process became an essential part of the City of Angels' vibrant art community.
re:discover: Where are you from and what brought you to Los Angeles?
Kii Arens: I was living in Minneapolis when I first came out to L.A. to do a photo shoot. The L.A. scene was eye-opening. I moved to L.A. seven years ago to be exposed to all the crazy, nutty characters who are out here. And, voilà, they're everywhere!
What do you love about Los Angeles?
There's so much opportunity to get in the creative mode in L.A. One thing I found was all the great animators in this town, like Chris Reccardi and Lynne Naylor. I was blown away by their talent and sense of design. Because the entertainment business is here, it lends itself to everything being a little more over the top everywhere. And that's great.
Do you draw inspiration from the city?
Yes, I constantly draw inspiration from L.A. I did an art show called "Oops … It's Art," which was cell-phone photos of stains found on the sidewalks of Hollywood. When you see the art, it's like the icky version of looking up in the clouds and pretending you see a shape. I also love the early-'60s, outer-space, streamline look found in L.A. architecture. The Cinerama is a good example, and the crazy, amazing neon signs that exist on storefronts and buildings all over town.
Don't you also create posters for concerts at the Greek Theatre?
Yes. Besides my own artwork, I bring in other artists. But sometimes the artists aren't used to the concept of their work being rejected. When I call Roger Dean, who did all of the famous album covers for the rock band Yes, to say that Peter Frampton and Aretha Franklin rejected [his] work, it's an interesting scenario. The rocks floating through the blue sky threw Aretha off a little bit. [He chuckles.] I was hoping she'd be down for that, you know!
Where do you go to see good art in Los Angeles?
You can't beat Bergamot Station. Nice wide selection. CoproGallery has been a staple of L.A. for a long time. Low-brow pop art, kind of kitschy art scene there. You'll see the most amazing pieces of art out of the most random things, like hands knitted together or jellyfish in the form of a giant wave.
How do you spend a typical fun weekend in Los Angeles?
Hanging out with friends at a karaoke bar. I love to sing and get absolutely nuts. We've been going to this place, Cafe Brass Monkey. They have a good song selection and that early-'80s vibe going on with all the wood paneling. I don't know why it's so cozy — maybe cuz my parents' basement was like that. We grew up watching TV in the basement. And breakfast at Grub on Stewart is great. Their bacon is the best you'll ever have. And the 101 Coffee Shop. Their Nut 'n' Honey — honey, banana, peanut butter — shake can't be beat!
Check out Kii’s L.A.