Artist RISK applies his signature to the Heal the Bay house project during the unveiling on Thursday morning. (photo by Brandon Wise)

BERKELEY STREET — A local builder and Heal the Bay volunteer revealed a unique piece of artwork Thursday morning that he and a team of artists created right under the noses of both residents and City Hall.

Unfortunately, it may have to come down quicker than the tarps that concealed it for the past three months.

Code compliance usually doesn’t intervene in artistic displays, but the piece on the 800 block of Berkeley Street is a bit different.

While some limit themselves to canvas or sculpture, longtime Heal the Bay volunteer Adam Corlin decided to fuse the two in a big way.

He used a house.

Several months ago, Corlin bought a dilapidated home on the 800 block of Berkeley Street. It hadn’t been lived in for years, except for the occasional transient that took up residence on the top floor, and it was covered in unwelcome graffiti.

“I looked at it and said, this looks like a billboard,” Corlin said.

If companies can use billboards to sell products, Corlin wanted to use his to send a message, one of support for Heal the Bay. He also wanted to do it in a way that nobody could ignore.

With the help of a friend, Corlin reached out to the internationally-known graffiti artist Risk, whose work has recently been featured in the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Risk, together with another artist — Retna — with work in that collection, joined forces with Corlin to design an installation like no other — one that completely covered the 2,200-square-foot exterior of the home.

The design, entitled “Oceans at Risk,” is composed of 138 homemade panels, 4 feet across and 4 feet wide, each painted by hand in the security of Risk’s Thousand Oaks studio and transported in secret to the house.

Corlin installed the panels under a seemingly endless supply of black tarp, with no one, not even his neighbors, any the wiser.

Risk, a New Orleans native and experienced surfer, said that the message and the method appealed to him, particularly in the wake of the 2010 oil spill that blanketed the Gulf Coast for months.

“I’ve wanted to do something for charity, and this concept of water came up,” said Risk, who still had purple paint on his hands from working on the piece up to the wire Wednesday night. “It sounded perfect.”

Risk created a theme of colors that melt from a fiery orange into red, purple-black and finally the cool blue of the ocean.

Each layer represents a different piece of the elements, he said, with the orange and red evoking the sky, and the dark, bruise-like colors the pollution that mars the purity underneath.

After a team installed the panels, Retna, a graffiti artist who specializes in lettering, put his own twist on the design with a largely illegible scrawl, which is meant to read “Oceans at Risk,” “Heal the Bay,” “Sea Shepherd” and “Mad Society.”

At approximately 8:20 a.m., with God, man and a KTLA news crew in attendance, Corlin ordered the tarp dropped, revealing for the first time the work that he and so many others had created over the last three months.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said.

Karin Hall, the executive director of Heal the Bay, was thrilled.

“It’s a great way to show what’s going on with our oceans,” she said.

The bright display seemed as much a road hazard as a public art display, as driver after driver craned their necks to get a glance at the unlikely sight.

“That’s cool!” said Michael Alemania, a resident in the neighborhood.

Alemania was walking two small dogs when he caught sight of the home-turned-installation. He’s been watching the renovation process, but had no idea what Corlin was planning.

Not all of the neighbors had such glowing reviews.

When the tarps came down, a half-naked man on a balcony two doors south shouted, “It’s a [explicative] eyesore!”

Corlin intends to leave the panels up until Sept. 17, when Heal the Bay will participate in the California Coastal Cleanup, a statewide initiative to get trash off of California’s coastline and beaches.

He may not get that long.

Corlin and his crew did not apply for permits to put up the display, and that’s a problem, said Code Compliance Officer Ron Takiguchi.

“He not only needed it to install, but city approval as well,” Takiguchi said in a phone message.

Takiguchi said that he would order an immediate removal of the panels.

Even prior to City Hall’s determination, Corlin had not decided what will happen with the panels after they’re removed from the scaffolding surrounding the home.

“I want to find a place in Santa Monica to install them,” Corlin said.


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