Six years ago Robert Vargas, an artist of Mexican descent who was born and raised in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, purchased a corner loft with enormous windows that perch over the bustling corner of 7th and Spring Streets in downtown Los Angeles. This is where he often draws artistic inspiration from the stark contrast of sheer ruggedness and trendiness he witnesses on the streets below while painting — whether in his loft or in the streets themselves.
Unlike many downtowners in the recently gentrified community who may turn their nose at the influx of their destitute neighbors from nearby “skid row” (this area contains one of the largest populations of transient persons in the United States), Vargas’ approach differed. “People are my greatest inspiration,” he says while sipping on a soda in the outdoor seating area of Syrup Desserts, a local Spring Street Café, moments before giving a dollar to a local transient he knows by name. “I was very excited to see how my surroundings downtown would change my work and how it would affect my content,” he says. Not surprisingly, the bustling area and all of its issues — homelessness, drug use, poverty — have become subjects in some of Vargas’ work.