Ready, Set, Paint

Art Battle Los Angeles: It’s like a rap battle for painters

Walk up the theater-like stairs of Exchange LA, formerly known as the LA Stock Exchange building; you’re likely to hear the floorboards creak as you enter the main room of the four-level nightclub. Bright neon lights point in every direction and illuminate the hall while a DJ spins remixed tunes of the most recognizable hits.

You’re surrounded by two-fully stocked bars that promise a hopeful idea of not having to wait too long for your over-priced drinks. In the middle of the room are blank canvases sitting upon easels that have dried paint spatter running down the legs of the stands. The canvases encircle a table that has a variety of paint shades that span across the color gamut. The MC grabs the mic and proceeds to hype up the growing crowd.

You have now entered the world of Art Battle Los Angeles.

Art Battle is the brainchild of Sean Plashkes and Max Bode, whose intention was to introduce the concept of rap battles to the world of art. Back in 2001, the first live competitions were held in alleys and junkyards across New York City. Through its popularity, the live art tournament has grown into an event series that attracts art and culture seekers.

Today, Art Battle hosts over 200 global events a year in which “the best of the best” artists go on exhibition tours throughout the world.

“From Toronto to Tokyo, Sydney to San Francisco, and Beijing to Bangladesh – Art Battle is the world’s live art tournament,” it says on their website.

A typical tournament involves three rounds. In the first and second round, eight artists have 20 minutes to take a blank canvas from nothing to a beautiful work of art, all while using a variety of paint, some brushes and the ingenuity of their creative talents.

As the artists create their work, the audience of spectators rotates counterclockwise — watching while sipping their drinks — as the creative imagery unfolds before their very eyes. Imagine a Thunderdome style variation of live speed painting — where 12 artists enter, but only one will be crowned. At the end of the round, the audience votes for the top two artists, who will then move on to the finale.

During the third and final 20 minute round, four artists compete, and the painter with the most audience votes becomes the Art Battle winner. Also, all of the artwork created during the tournament is sold through a silent auction.

During the Oct. 23 tournament, the four semi-finalists who went head to head were Avian Anderson, Marcus Murray, Angela Bermudez and Joe Dietl. The artwork produced was remarkable, to say the least — especially considering the time restraints and the watchful pressure from a crowd of looky-loos. When the clock turned zero — just as the paint began to dry on the canvases — the votes were tallied, and a winner was declared. Angela Bermudez, a Costa Rican artist living in LA, was crowned the winner of Art Battle Los Angeles, with her beautiful depiction of a fire engulfing a scenic mountainside.

The next tournament to be held in Los Angeles is yet to be determined. However, stay connected with Art Battle through its website, Instagram and Facebook to find out when the next event will be held.