In the early ’90s, Los Angeles-born painter and urban artist Evan Skrederstu became part of a new breed of artist now established in the global art world: an emerging master from the old school of hands-on street art. This virtuoso muralist, known for his photorealism and riveting compositions–often surrealistic, his work is also strongly narrative–concerns himself with image making in both macro and micro scale. Fascinated with graffiti from age 13, Skrederstu developed his foundational skills on L.A.’s freeways and concrete riverbed while studying at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. By 18, he had moved from the anything-goes vibe of the street to a more personal expression on canvas, crystallizing his own identity as an artist. Today his works are in museums and private collections.
After his formal training, Skrederstu moved into scenic painting for film, theme parks, and museums, working under Ralph Ramirez, nephew of celebrated East L.A. muralist Willie Herron. Skrederstu first achieved recognition as part of the street art collective UGLARworks (Unified Group of Los Angeles Residents). The group comprises him and long-time collaborator Christopher Brand, plus Steve Martinez, Espi, and Jose Lopez. As a collective, they carry on L.A.’s mural heritage following in the footsteps of public works murals by Diego Rivera, ‘David’ Siqueiros and others. “There’s a certain energy to painting with the right people that keeps me alert and sometimes forces me to look at things from a different perspective,” says Skrederstu.
“In eight years as a scenic painter, I gained knowledge and know-how about painting on a large scale that would otherwise be impossible to get,” says Skrederstu. That experience reverberates in his ongoing themes—among them, the contrast between two environments, such as tropical versus urban, and between two creators, such as man versus nature. Skrederstu first achieved recognition as part of the street-art collective UGLARworks (for Unified Group of Los Angeles Residents), which includes his long-time collaborator Christopher Brand, as well as street artists Steve Martinez, Espi, and José López. Following in the footsteps of public-works muralists such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, the collective carries on L.A.’s mural heritage.
The group painted together for more than a decade before creating The Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River, volume one (2008), a unique guidebook in which “photographs, illustrations, and stories from residents of the area capture the River’s diverse plant and animal life up close.” The book explores the ecosystem and cultural identity of the graffiti-splashed, concrete-clad riverbed that runs through the city all the way to the Pacific, announcing that the river “will continue to grow no matter how much concrete lies in its way.” An accompanying interactive multimedia installation at the Pasadena Museum of California Art toured museums in the United States and Japan and, with the book, was written up in the Wall Street Journal in 2010. That year, Skrederstu received an unusual commission. For the L.A. installment of the multicity public-art experiment Play Me, I’m Yours—ultimately, hundreds of pianos placed on streets in dozens of cities around the world—Culver City’s Wende Museum and the Los Angeles Cha.
Inspired equally by his fellow artists, L.A. muralists such as Kent Twitchell, and old masters like Caravaggio, Tiepolo, and Velazquez, not to mention his complex urban environment, Skrederstu is a versatile artist. Noticing a paint drip on a beetle, for instance, prompted a series of astonishingly detailed paintings done on the exoskeletons of dead insects, such as beetles, spiders, and mantises. Telescoping down to this scale without the aid of magnifying devices required a total transformation in his tools and technique. Skrederstu is currently working on showing the large-scale painting in a smaller-scale format: Bordering on trompe l’oeil, several of these smaller works depict him painting large-scale murals. This allows him the freedom to “put myself in impossible situations: to show the process and involvement, not just the finished product…on a scale that’s not always available.” Evan Skrederstu lives and paints in Los Angeles.