elan vital

Art Sizzles in Summer

From spray paint pieces to gem-like creations, Second Saturday Art Walk allows enthusiasts to discover the mecca on Perez Road in Cathedral City.

Marcia Gawecki Arts & Entertainment

elan vital
Elan Vital showcases abstract paintings created with aerospace enamel for display at his Cathedral City gallery.

Perez Road in Cathedral City is fast becoming an art mecca for galleries and studios. Many artists and gallery owners are flocking to the industrial area with low rents and high ceilings to create and display their art.

Throughout the summer, Second Saturday Art Walk on Perez Road will host a four-hour gallery crawl from 5-8 p.m. that is free and open to the public. The participating 20 galleries and art studios run the gamut from a one-man studio without an outdoor sign to a 5,000-square foot gallery space and working studio. The next one is slated for June 10.

Palm Springs-based Ryan Campbell grew up in Los Angeles, honing his art skills as a graffiti artist, spraying his name on buildings, before making the move to a working studio on Perez Road.

VIDEO: Ryan Campbell talks about the surfaces he paints on and shows an example in the works.

Up until February, he had been sharing gallery space with other artists, but was outgrowing them because he wanted to paint bigger. He had agents, galleries showing his work, commissioned work online, and needed a place of his own. An agent went with Campbell to look at spaces on Perez Road, and he ended up contracting with Frankie’s Bakery to use their storage space.

Oversprays mark the front walls creating patterns of their own. In the back, there is a saw table in which he creates large and small canvases from wood.

His figurative work that dominated his early days as a graffiti artist have morphed into linear abstractions that he calls, “line segments” that appeal to a broader audience. This new controlled style started when Campbell was working on his part-time art installation business.

“I would see how a gazebo trellis would cast complex shadows on the ground, and I wondered how could I emulate this with paint?” Campbells explains.


Ryan Campbell started as a graffiti artist, and his work has morphed into linear abstractions.

He started using blue painter’s tape to add lines and section off certain shapes on canvas. “Tape was frowned upon by certain graffiti codes,” Campbell explains. “But now that I’m on my own, I can use all the tape all I want.”

Campbell still uses spray along with gallons of high-grade acrylic paint to create his complex line segments. Spray cans are neatly stacked up on each other in bins. He doesn’t just use spray paint from local retail outlets, but seeks out and pays more for brands that architects use for their models.

“I like to create situations, make a mess, and then clean it up,” says Campbell of his creative process.

His new abstract line segments series include multi-colored and monochromatic pieces in red, white, and black. Multi-colored pieces often “pop” or have a 3D effect. Campbell’s finished images range from $250 to $20,000. Patrons include philanthropist Donna McMillian, the City of Palm Springs, Cheech Marin and Westfield Mall.

Even though he doesn’t have an outdoor sign that announces his working studio, Campbell says he feels very much a part of the Second Saturdays action on Perez Road.

Around the corner, Elan Vital showcases abstract paintings that he created for his 6,000-square foot gallery in Hawaii with aerospace enamel.

“The U2 spy plane could reach 180,000 feet high in the atmosphere with chilling temperatures to 350 degrees with their wings flapping, and the paint didn’t crack,” marvels Elan Vital, whose gallery bears his name. “I wanted some of this paint!”

Many calls to the Air Force and other government agencies landed him with a paint supplier that insisted he buy large amounts. An engineer by trade, Vital experimented with pigments for two years until he was satisfied with the results.

“I use silver instead of grey and gold instead of yellow,” Vital says in a promotional video in his studio.


Elan Vital works with aluminum sculptures that resemble angels and reflect light.

The end result looks like shimmering gemstones that are alive. Some of his 1,600 customers say they look like sunsets, butterfly wings or tropical flowers. He doesn’t title his work, only numbers them so he doesn’t limit the potential owner’s imagination. Once sold, Vital signs his name on the back.

His large abstract paintings ranging in price from $3,000 to six figures, capture light, and appear alive. His technique is tedious. Finished products can have 70 to 80 layers of paint.


Elan Vital’s technique is tedious. Finished products can have 70 to 80 layers of paint.

Vital pours the paint or injects it with a turkey baster onto the canvas. The paint flows naturally from hills and valleys created by batons Vital places underneath.
“That way, the paint flows where it wants to go,” Vital says. “I never use a brush, because it would spoil these natural colors.”

The finished product looks like gemstones; feels like rubber, and can clean up quickly with Pledge. Vital welcomes visitors to touch his work, knowing it is part of the experience and oils from their hands would not harm it.

Besides paintings, Vital works with aluminum sculptures that resemble angels and reflect light. In fact, light was how he got to be part of the “in” crowd with artist Andy Warhol. Vital created the light show for Warhol’s Psychedelic Discotheque on St. Mark’s Place in New York.

“Warhol was very hands off,” Vital recalls. “He told me, ‘I like what you’re doing, just do it!’”

“It was a different world, and everyone was doing hard drugs then,” Vital adds. “But when I work, I work straight. And I got to hang out with some beautiful women!”

Second Saturday Art Walk, Perez Road, Cathedral City, www.discovercathedralcity.com

Elan Vital Galleries, 68845 Perez Road, Cathedral City, 808-214-0901; http://elanvitalgalleries.com

Ryan Campbell, www.rmc1studio.com