How one cryptic image launched a fascinating and unpredictable catalog.
In 1999, an iridescent painting of a skeleton talking on an old school cell phone appeared throughout Southern California. Only a few years removed from the proliferation of the internet in homes worldwide, the image spoke to a pre-Y2K mass adoption of handheld technology and the changing tides looming just around the corner. Appropriately known as “Skullphone”—a moniker also shared by its creator—the iconic vision endures and ignited a street art legacy spanning nearly two decades to date.
So, what inspired the genesis of this prescient vision?
It was drawn as a self-portrait–It was the first time we had cellphones, and it felt like we had a new pose in outdoor spaces. Even just a year before I originally drew it, you wouldn’t see anyone walking down the street holding anything up to his or her head like that. I saw it as an X-ray of our new way of living. We have this computer welded to our skull. I was being true to myself, and people responded. They would drive by it talking on the phone and think, ‘That’s me!’ It’s funny because we’ve gone beyond holding phones to our heads to looking down at them, but the sentiment is the same.
As much as this art is a commentary on man’s propensity to become one with technology, Skullphone simultaneously embraces the future. The artist’s work would historically be the very first art to adorn digital billboards in Los Angeles during 2008. These days, his Instagram continually touts key pieces.
Back then, we didn’t have the tools that we do now. If you want to share something today, you post it on Instagram. At the time, Instagram was street art! That’s how we shared what we were doing. The image feels relevant nowadays. As soon as I drew Skullphone, I felt an immediate release of everything I’d been feeling. We’re still in that bubble.
Between recently contributing art to an ACLU benefit at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood, Skullphone has introduced a new series with his eyes closed—quite literally.
In late 2016, I started painting signage around L.A. with my eyes closed as a way to communicate my point-of-view. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that point-of-view needs to be communicated. It becomes a puzzle to understand or decipher. It’s a very different approach to art as opposed to what I’ve done in the past, which is very planned out. It’s freeing. I call it ‘The Blind Washes’.
Outside of various galleries nationwide, an original Skullphone creation can be found in the main Opkix studio. We look forward to a lot more from him very soon!