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If, on a recent Saturday night, you happened to find yourself walking down a desolate street at the edge of L.A.’s Skid Row, you might have passed an open warehouse roll gate in a building displaying a Swoon mural on the exterior. Inside that warehouse, you would have immediately encountered a giant multi-eyed upside-down alien next to a wolf serving fresh popcorn. A film was screening deep inside the space, and if you made your way past the small shack with a roof made of compressed spray cans — and didn’t trip over another pile of empty paint cans with a small metal chimney spewing glittery cloud letters — you would have joined a room full of people watching Wastedland 2, the most recent work by punk filmmaker Andrew H. Shirley.
The warehouse, better known as Superchief Gallery, is hosting the film’s accompanying massive site-specific graffiti installation, also called Wastedland 2, through the end of the month. The show features work by a string of infamous graffiti artists, including UFO 907, RAMBO, DARKCLOUD, WOLFTITS, and Adam VOID. UFO 907 provided many of the standout pieces, from the giant alien that greets you at the entrance (which you can climb inside) to the motorized, spray-can-wielding sculpture (which plays a major role in the film) to the animated piece “Neon UFO” lurking in the back.
The film itself resembles a post-apocalyptic, beer-and-weed-fueled buddy road trip evoking Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz. The mythical character UFO 907 stands in for the wizard, and the roles of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are played by a wolf, an amoeba, and a cranky cat, respectively. The narrative revolves around the oft-repeated existential question “What else is there?” — in this case, referring to anything that isn’t painting, getting high, or sleeping.
This version of the installation is part of a nationwide tour that has already seen shows in an old Ford factory in Detroit, an art gallery in Richmond, VA, and a guerilla show under a bridge in Kansas City, MO, with a different mix of art each time. In an interview with Mass Appeal, Shirley, whose work has been shown at PS1 and the Museum of Sex, said, “I have explored punk aesthetics in various mediums, and filmmaking is one of them. It’s a challenge to incorporate the design and psychology of graffiti into a film and have it be relatable to both graffiti writers and the average person.”
The tour will continue up the West Coast and across the Midwest, culminating with its biggest show and event in New York City in September.