Alhambra "Hoodlums" transform car parts into art

In 2012, Sarah Grear profiled the Hoodlums, a collective of artists and auto body painters who use car hoods as their canvases. Gabriel Mejia, who help found the group, spoke with us recently to say that they're still producing art, and that their works are currently displayed at M Bar in Boyle Heights. They have expanded their horizons as well: "We've started doing more doors and fenders," said Mejia. He added that he, friend Wesley Frias, and the other members are thinking about hosting an "immersive" event during the summer; aside from car art, there will also be live bands and a display of classic cars. As for Grear, since the article's publication she has written for the Alhambra Chamber's newspaper, spoken at Social Media Week Los Angeles—a conference on media platforms— and contributed to Los Angeles Fashion, a National Public Radio ad campaign, and the Open Places Travel Blog. She also hosts online writing classes on her website, sarahgrear.com.

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The "Hoodlums" started as an experiment. Alhambra auto body painter Gabriel Mejia gave a few spare car hoods to some artist friends, curious if they could use them as a canvas. What came back were diverse works of art, and something Mejia had never seen before.

A piece of artwork by the Hoodlums“I was blown away by the artwork they brought back — each artist had put their heart into what they painted,” Mejia, a 27-year-old Alhambra native, said.

Instead of the traditional airbrushing, the painters used acrylic and oils. Mejia sprayed a clear coat on the hoods to preserve the paint before placing them back on a car or on a wall. When Mejia's boss, Carmelita Haltom, saw Mejia loading the hoods on a truck with his friend photographer Wesley Frias, she asked, jokingly, “Hey, what are you hoodlums up to?” The name stuck. The hoods featured at an exhibit

The "Hoodlums" are made up of Mejia and Frias, along with eight graffiti, abstract and traditional artists from Downtown or East Los Angeles. After collecting more pieces, Mejia and Frias began to organize shows to feature the art, taking the hoods to a fashion show in Jennifer Lopez’s Los Angeles studio off of Slauson, and participating in the Downtown LA Art Walk on the second Thursday of the month.

At the Alhambra Art WalkTheir colorfully painted hoods, doors, fenders, and trunks – with images of creatures, poetry, and Dia De Los Muertos faces – leaned against the fountains on the corner of Garfield and Main Street at Alhambra's first Art Walk in May. The Art Walk was the first time the hoods had been seen in Alhambra.

Although he has yet to sell a hood, Mejia is confident he’s onto something that will find the right buyer. While he admits he doesn’t know a lot about art, after spending nine years working in body shops he definitely knows how to work on cars. And he believes the more art on the hood, the better. “If you’re an artist, I would love to see your work,” he said. “Give you a car part, and you can do what you do.”

The Mosaic Art Walk is Alhambra’s new monthly event on the first Friday of each month from 5-8 pm. Local artists, musicians, and vendors display their skills and wares on the corner of Garfield Avenue and Main Street – Alhambra Renaissance Corner. You can learn more about Hoodlums at July’s first Friday Art Walk.

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