LOS ANGELES — Together with the palm trees at sunset and the Hollywood sign, nothing says Los Angeles quite like a good angel wing mural. The murals started to pop up around the city after artist Colette Miller’s “Global Angel Wings Project,” which began in 2012 with the mission of reminding humanity that we can be “the angels on this earth.” But nothing iconic and Instagram-able lasts long in this city without being co-opted as a PR move. Earlier this week, the creators of the Go90 web series Like and Subscribe, which revolves around internet-famous, egocentric characters, decided to create their own angel wing mural as the ultimate selfie backdrop.
Just around the corner from one of Miller’s murals in Hollywood, where a group of visitors snap non-ironic photos, a cheap white tent covers up another, private mural, designed specifically for and by Like and Subscribe. In addition to angel wings, the commissioned work contains the Los Angeles moniker “City of Angels” in quotation marks, and, inexplicably, the words “Art” and “Love” — not to mention a verified user check designed to go over the poser’s head.
Jack Wagner, one of Like and Subscribe’s producers and writers, said his goal was “to make the most Instagram-able mural in Los Angeles … all of the key elements.” Outside, a sign indicates that only “verified influencers and people with over 20K followers” are allowed inside to snap a selfie, a move that has ensured both attention and outrage. Some Twitter users complained about the aesthetics of the mural itself, with one bemoaning that “This is a rip off and mish-mash of Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Colette Miller,” a description which, according to Wagner, is pretty much dead-on. Others targeted the most obviously offensive element of the work: its exclusivity, with posts calling out the stunt as “perfecto capitalism” and “social media gentrification.”
Wagner emphasizes that the stunt itself mirrors the ridiculous nature of his web series and “influencer” culture in general, saying that these topics are “extremely hard to satirize” because of the difficulty in keeping up with reality, mentioning that there were entire plot lines and episodes that had to be re-written because they couldn’t keep up with the absurdity of real life events. When pressed on this subject, Wagner responded that he “doesn’t want to name specifics” because “the first examples that come to mind are kind of tragic and sad” and others “would give away the ending of the show.”
Outside the mural, a kind security guard, Qassim Haqq, monitors the entrance to the influencer-only social media shrine. Approaching with my phone open, I explain that I write for Hyperallergic and show him the publication’s number of followers, to which he smiles and says that’s more than enough, and lets me in. Once inside, he snaps some photos of me in front of the mural, a painting which reflects social media culture in its utter banality. Unsurprisingly, the experience is largely anti-climactic. I pose self-consciously, subtly changing the tilt of my head and broadness of my smile to give myself a wide range of options for the inevitable post.
Wagner says that attendance tends to pick up later in the afternoon, but upon my arrival yesterday at around 11:30am, I was the only attendee there for the private mural. Everyone else was around the corner taking selfies in front of Miller’s open-to-the-public angel wings, which, despite the artist’s intentions, seems to reflect, more or less, exactly the same thing.
“Verified Influencers” can visit the mural at 7753 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles through Wednesday, June 27.