I like all these colors, but where will I park my duck?

by Johara Al-Rasheed

Flaunt explores DABSMYLA and Modernica's new collaboration: Before&Further
If you weren’t one of the 1.5 million viewers that tuned in to the MTV Movie Awards this year you missed out. Accomplished illustrators Dabs and Myla were commissioned to bring their art to life by designing the set, logo and statuette of this years awards, which they did mixing graffiti, theatrical cartoons, and colorful patterns. Since moving to Los Angeles from Australia in 2009 the artist duo have been busy painting murals everywhere from Mexico City to Tahiti, and this weekend they will debut their biggest installation yet, a collaboration with furniture giant Modernica. The pop-up show features a stand-alone structure that could’ve been plucked straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit—a 4,000 square foot multilevel house that had been abandoned and used for storage on the Modernica factory lot. The space has been transfigured into a one of a kind home you wish you lived in.

When I meet the artists on a sweltering September day they are a few days shy of completing the project, and  are itching to share their vision with the rest of Los Angeles. They tell me that it all came together in what can only be described as kismet: “The paintings for this show we started in November of last year and we knew we were going to do a pop-up exhibition and we didn’t have the space yet, and then we meet these guys—they wanted to sit down with us and have a meeting about doing a collaboration together and that was in June, and so we came to meet them and we saw this building” Myla explains in her soft voice, almost a whisper. She has a childlike quality that is both endearing and kind, a yin to Dabs’ yang. “As soon as I saw her face, we both turned to each other as we were kind of walking through thinking…” Dabs interjects, they had found their next location, or more appropriately, it had found them. “What also appealed to us was the location,” set against a backdrop of industrial buildings and factories, the structure stands out amongst the gray surroundings in the best way possible. “It makes it a discovery, the whole journey of getting here” Dabs tells me excitedly.

The idea was to create “an installation that feels like a house, but then not be like a house as well”. Their inspiration, they told me as they walked me through each room, came from old case study homes and midcentury modern furniture. Enter Modernica. The furniture giant was founded on the principles of the North American Modernism movement and has thrived for 25 years. They are known for simply designed, high quality, and high functioning furniture, which ultimately served as Dabs Myla’s blank canvas. The collaboration has yielded whimsical pieces that retain their function. “Modernica—they have an incredible wood department so we drew a few sketches of the (duck) sculpture that we wanted to make and we gave it to them,” Myla explains in reference to the (much) larger than life duck sitting in the middle of the living room. “We drew a whole bunch of stuff and just gave it to them thinking that we’ll just throw it all out there and see what they can and can’t make… they figured it all out, which is incredible” Dabs continues. A lot of thought has gone into each element of the space. The couch behind the sculpture matches the neck of the duck and the cushion the eyeball; even the hanging lamp carries the theme

The artists have worked tirelessly for almost eight weeks to bring their vision to life and upon entering each room it is intensely clear that they are perfectionists in the best sense. They have left no corner untouched and their commitment is apparent in the small details they have added such as the “directory” on the banister or the painted books on the shelves. If you are impressed with the art on the lower level be sure to check out the second floor where you can listen to records while lounging on pillows that set in front of a massive cat face that you will want to take home (this, in fact, is possible, all the furniture is for sale and can be customized to fit your own home). You might also want to hang out in the meditation triangles they have created specifically for this collaboration, or watch TV (in a modern technological touch the pair created a SnapChat reel of their artistic process shown on a loop). The real treat, however, is the black light room at the top of the stairs. Set to a soundtrack of psychedelic rock, cartoon characters come to life in bright florescent colors like floating heads against a dark galaxy of stars.

In true Dabs Myla fashion, the couple has created an interactive experience for their audience where they can discover secret elements throughout the house, so don’t be afraid to touch things and be curious, just don’t break the duck.

Before & Further opens on October 17th 2015 and will run through November 15th at the Modernica Factory lot.