HOLLYWOOD, Calif. Since its recent unveiling, a constant stream of Van Halen fans have stopped in the parking lot of the Guitar Center in Hollywood to see artist Robert Vargas Eddie Van Halen pay homage to the mural.
An avid fan of Van Halen himself, Vargas’ larger-than-life mural can be seen all over Los Angeles, as he has previously paid tribute to several Los Angeles-based groups, including The Doors.
“My first record was a Van Halen record,” said Vargas. “My first gig was a Van Halen gig and they are heroes from my hometown. [Eddie] I got to see myself painting at one point, which was really cool. It is interesting how his full circle. I use my creative process to celebrate his creative process.
After Van Halen died of cancer last October, Vargas approached the Guitar Center with his idea for a mural. He said it took twelve days to complete the full-scale painting and was done freehand without the use of grid lines which are often used for work of this size.
Van Halen is admired for his virtuosity and innovation on the guitar, but Vargas said he wanted to capture the pure joy the musician conveyed by playing his Frankenstrat guitar on stage.
I wanted to capture the essence of Eddie in the moment, Vargas said. In his creative mind, when [Van Halen] was at the height of their powers. Just the mighty Van Halen who rules the world and sets it on fire.
Vargas chose the location of the Guitar Center because it is already the mecca of the Los Angeles rock and roll scene.
There was no better place than here at Guitar Center where his handprints are on the front, he says. And the Frankenstrat is in one of the showcases, which was also one of my references when I started to paint the guitar.
Randy, who came from Santa Barbara to see the mural, saw Van Halen at Whiskey a Go Go in 1977 just before the band released their debut album.
My hair is sort of standing up right now, Randy said looking at the mural. Eddie was such a talented artist and [Vargas] blew me away to have the vision of being able to take a bare wall and do it. I mean, it’s like dead on perfect. Everything that’s happened in my life [Eddie] was part of. His music has always made me pass.
Even in our Instagram age, fans look to Vargas’ mural in person as a pilgrimage to their musical hero.
It’s a mural to be lived in, Vargas said. I believe people from all over the world will be coming to Hollywood specifically to see it.
Vargas said he doesn’t like to focus on the loss of one of his beloved musical idols, but rather on his legacy. His mural is now part of that legacy and fans who have come to see Vargas’ mural agree.
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