An Interview with Artist Karlos Marquez

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In a sometimes dark and drab world, Karlos Marquez’s work is not only a breath of fresh air, but a welcome pop of color. Using bright and vibrant tones to highlight his message of Love, Karlos wants to spread nothing but positivity to the masses. One of LA’s original graffiti artists, Karlos has been creating art since the 80’s. After many years of overworking himself in the corporate world, Karlos has finally recommitted his life to his true passion - art. No longer only a graffiti artist, Karlos now applies his artistic prowess to a variety of different mediums from canvas to furniture to metal. He focuses on repurposing things that are considered destructive into beautiful, exuberant works of art. As a proud Angelino, Karlos produces all of his work right here in LA. 

Karlos' latest collection of neon work titled "City Lights" is on view at Organic Modernism through July.  

You've been creating art for a long time. How has your style changed since then? And how has your shift from the streets to canvas affected the evolution of your style?

When I started painting I focused on drawing and painting characters. Today I’m more focused on abstract and contemporary style, creating minimal abstract pieces to express my message, which is Love. I still use the pastel colors I did in my youth. I like how color evokes different emotions. When I painted in the 80’s it was all about me, now it’s all about Love for others and what I see in others.


You've been honest about past struggles with addiction and unhappiness in the workplace, two sources of great pain for a lot of people. How has art helped you overcome those obstacles?

I used drugs and alcohol to try to fill the hole or void in me. Through recovery I learned that my addiction had robbed me of my passion for art, along with my family and friends. Not until a few years later did the passion for art come back. I had a bad motorcycle accident in 2004. That tragedy was really a blessing in disguise. I had all the time in the world so I started painting to forget the physical and mental pain. I started experimenting with different medias just like I did when I was a kid. I started doing graffiti art once again because that’s how I learned to paint and draw. I also learned that a friend had ALS and this broke my heart. I made a promise to my friend I would never stop painting, so I’ve been painting ever since.


Graffiti and its artists are historically misunderstood, with some considering graffiti as destructive to cities and society in general. What do you have to say to those who see it that way? And how do you hope to change that stigma?

It is irreverent, rebellious, and non-conformist by its very nature. It exists outside of mainstream culture, yet it is very telling of present times. It effectively reveals the thoughts and feelings of society. I once saw written in very small lettering on a building in downtown that read GRAFFITI IS THE PEOPLE'S VOICE!

I’m proud to call myself a graffiti artist.


You mention being driven by a desire to take something negative and make it beautiful. How does this translate into your current work?

It’s simple. I’ve learned in recovery that Love conquers all...just because something is broken doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. People and God loved me when I didn’t Love myself. I’m just sharing my love for the world through my painting and hope that it inspires others to create.


Since you now create art for people's homes, what do you want them to feel and take away from your pieces?

I want people to smile and feel the warmth of their loved ones when they see my artwork. To remind them of all the beautiful things life has to offer, but most of all, to remind them of their love of family and friends - life’s true treasures. That’s what home means to me.


Organic Modernism is located at 315 N. La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA  90036. For inquiries:



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