The meaning of the mural outside Whole Foods Playa Vista is up to you

By Christina Campodonico

On one side of Dourone’s mural, a lone tree is crowded by buildings (left); on the other, a hand either adds or removes another tree

On one side of Dourone’s mural, a lone tree is crowded by buildings (left); on the other, a hand either adds or removes another tree

It isn’t often that you’re arrested by the image of a giant, rainbow-colored hand, but if you’ve visited the Whole Foods inside The Runway at Playa Vista you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The psychedelic appendage studded with celestial objects reaches down from above to either plant or pull up a tree, while a black-and-white cityscape swirls distortedly in the background. On the neighboring wall, a little palm tree sticks out from the center of a ring of blue houses that’s inside a circle of red buildings surrounded by a loop of yellow skyscrapers.

At lunchtime on a sunny afternoon, the image begs the question: Who made that?

Several calls and emails later, I tracked down Dourone (pronounced however you would like, according to him), the Spanish street artist turned muralist who painted the giant work across from the dining patios of Whole Foods and Hopdoddy Burger Bar.

Dourone (aka Fabio López Gonzalo) is not a man of many words, but his images speak volumes.

From Playa Vista to Hollywood to Paris, Dourone has created whimsical worlds that are big and bold. Pouty ingénues with pursed lips and yearning eyes, sliced up like skin on a plastic surgeon’s table, peer out at you (or is it the camera?) in Hollywood. Freeways snake and skyscrapers spike through cracked open craniums in Downtown L.A. A removed human mask reveals an owl-eyed infinity sign in Filipino Town. Wherever he goes, Dourone makes his mark.

He calls his style “sentipensante,”which is a contraction of the Spanish words for feeling and thinking, first coined by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. Similarly, seeing Dourone’s work is like a one-two punch — a hit of color to the eye and a seizure of possible meanings to the head.

It was Dourone’s strong aesthetic that attracted Runway developers Lincoln Property Company to commission another work by the artist, who has populated their Kodak Campus in Hollywood with those aforementioned camera-ready starlets. They also commissioned additional artists from Dourone’s Do Art Foundation to create murals for other wall spaces around Runway.

“All of the artists that came over to Runway, they added the final textural element to the project,” says Lincoln Property Co. Senior Executive Vice President David Binswanger.

“Their creativity mixed with their execution surprised all of us,” Binswanger said, adding that Dourone’s mural in particular “brought life to that edge of the project,” which would otherwise be a gray concrete corner.

The mural — called “Extinción,” or “Extinction” in English — took 17 days to paint and has been up since March 2015.

More surprising than the speed of Dourone’s execution is the freedom with which he was able to make the mural. Lincoln Property Co. indicated some of their preferences after Dourone showed them samples of his work, but they really did let Dourone have free reign.

“Here’s your canvas; do what you want,” Binswanger recalls of handing over the aesthetic keys to Dourone.

From the look of it, Dourone didn’t hold back.

— Christina Campodonico

“Extinction” could be interpreted as a statement about the value of green space and the consequences of overdevelopment. Could it be construed as a comment on Playa Vista itself, or a playful reaction to some people’s concerns that Playa Vista itself represented too much development?

As the name of the mural said, to me the interpretation of this design is extinction: We are moving all the trees for building. I do not see it as a critique of Playa Vista, but a general criticism of what is happening worldwide. But [“Extinction”] can have the meaning you want it to have depending on how positive or negative you are, because the hand [in the mural] may set or remove [the tree].

And this is the game I see with this mural — that you can see the hand removing trees to build, but you can also think that it’s planting trees to color the city.

How did you come up with the name “Dourone?” In English, “dour” means “relentlessly severe, stern, or gloomy in manner or appearance.”

Initially it means nothing. I have chosen the letters based on their shape and not based on their meaning. Once I decided that I liked “dour” I looked into a dictionary and saw what the word meant, but it was chance. The “one” was put in at a time in my life that I was doing graffiti and it was the way to say I was the first to paint “dour.”

On your website you have the motto “Art for the People.” How does that philosophy reflect your work?

It reflects my work because the people I meet and my experience with them inspires me a lot. When people are happy with my artwork it makes me eager to work. I think that when you work in the street, whether you like it or not, you do it for the people. You are working in a place where people live and generally in high-traffic areas. There are many parts of my work where people influence me. That’s why I think my work is for the people.