Grizzly Bears of Venice Beach

David Paris, owner of The Brig poses next to “Grizzly Bears Once Walked On Venice Beach”. Photo by Sam Catanzaro

Renowned muralist Eric Junker brightens The Brig.

By Sam Catanzaro

The hustle and bustle of Abbot Kinney Boulevard is about as far removed from the pristine marshlands depicted in “Grizzly Bears Once Walked On Venice Beach,” a new mural painted by renowned artist Eric Junker in front of The Brig.

“In my work I am trying to remind people about natural places and the lost history of the places we experience everyday,” Junker said. “It really was not that long ago that a place like Venice was a natural environment.”

Up until the turn of the 20th century, Venice and coastal Los Angeles were marshy wetlands. Inhabited by Chumash and Tongva people, what is now Abbot Kinney Boulevard, was once an ecologically diverse area until Abbot Kinney drained the marshlands to build his city.  

“There were megafauna in L.A. at one point. Giant sloths and woolly mammoths and giant bears, and if you think in geological times, it was really not that long ago,” Junker said. “I think the last grizzly bear in Southern California was killed in 1908.”

The mural idea began when David Paris, owner of The Brig, wanted to do something with the 70-foot long concrete wall surrounding his parking lot along Palms Boulevard. Paris knew about Junker from the various murals he has painted in restaurants throughout the city.  

Muralist Eric Junker involved kids from Safe Place for Youth in the painting of his mural. Photo by Sam Catanzaro

“I have always thought Eric was terrific,” Paris said. “He has his own style, his own character, and way of doing things which I love and I did not impose any confines.”

The one request that Paris had for Junker was to involve the community in some way. Junker was more than happy to oblige and included kids from Safe Place for Youth, a center that supports homeless children, in the painting process. On one part of the wall, Junker and the kids collaborated on the mural, and on a separate wall the kids were turned loose and painted a mural on their own.  

“I think art is a great way to help some of these kids who have troubles. Art can be a really soothing and restorative process,” Paris said. “I think they got something out of it.”

Junker, who lived in Venice from 1988-2000 and is now based in Silverlake, has held an eclectic array of jobs throughout his life. His art has been used by a client roster that includes The GAP, Patagonia, and TOMS, and recognized by publications including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Elle Decor.  

David Paris, owner of The Brig, points out some his favorite bits of the mural. Photo by Sam Catanzaro

“I have had a fine art career, I have had a design career, I was a partner in an advertising agency, and now I don’t see many boundaries and just do whatever comes my way that I think is interesting that needs a creative solution for,” Junker said.

Junker is also a Lecturer at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design and formerly taught as an Adjunct Professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. His style, which he describes as “simple”, has its roots in graffiti and street art.

“I like to try to express as much as possible with as little as possible. It’s more like big drawings rather than painting. So I try to get it down to the barest elements needed to get the energy and point across of the mural. A lot of the simplicity has to do with coming from a graffiti background and having to work very quickly.  I think a lot of my style is fueled by graffiti practice and impatience,” Junker said. “I like to move quickly so I can move on to the next idea.”

Prior to painting “Grizzly Bears Once Walked On Venice Beach,” Junker did two practice murals in The Brig’s parking lot. Photo by Sam Catanzaro

And since he finished up the mural at The Brig quickly, Junker is ready to move onto his next project: a mural at the Safe Place for Youth building in Venice.