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The Ever Evolving Mondo 59420

From Art on the Streets to Gallery Walls                                         by Angelica De La Torre

Armando Bobadilla aka Mondo 59420 sits comfortably at Holy Grounds coffee house in El Sereno.  The outdoor seating area is as serene as his demeanor.  He immediately states that all questions are open for discussion, and he welcomes them all.  Most street artists relish anonymity, but this is a new age, and Mondo is no typical street artist.    

Professionally he has spent over 20 years in the financial corporate world.  But, it was back in the fifth grade that another student from New York exposed him to art in the form of graffiti. He was hooked.  “I got chalk and drew it on the floor everywhere.  And I just kept drawing from then.  Anytime someone would ask what kind of gift I’d want…I wanted paper, colored pencils…I was done with toys at that point.”  

From chalk he moved to permanent markers and whatever was available.  With not much options or support to channel his artistic expression, he resorted to stealing supplies. “The hardest part was that I was a teenager and I couldn’t buy it.  My parents wouldn’t buy it.  So of course I would steal from garages, my uncle’s garage.  I’d find a can in my parents’ garage, but then we would start to get it from the stores.  And unfortunately we had to steal most of it.”

No matter what the limitation, Mondo transcended to keep exploring his art.  “I have no choice but to paint and create.  Even if I didn’t share it with anybody, and kept it in my own room, and was the only one that would be able to look at it, I wouldn’t stop.  But, I would say that the first time that I showed in a group show in a coffee house in East LA was really a tremendous situation.  Where I was able to sit and watch people look at my artwork, and that told me that, you know, even strangers can see that it’s, you know, decent work to look at.  And I thought that’s pretty cool.  I guess it gave me some type of answer that I was doing something that was making sense.”

Mondo’s transition to acrylics began at East LA College, where one of his professors motivated him to continue his arts education.  An important theme that surfaced and continues to present itself is Dia de los Muertos.  Skulls have a certain attraction for him.  He explains that this comes from a need to strip away facades, all societal influences, as everyone looks the same as a skull.  But Mando also admits that death has been on his mind for the past year. Getting instantly emotional he recounts how his wife Melissa has had to endure two surgeries these past few years.  It was a time of uncertainty and fear.  But he embraces these reminders of the brevity of life and transforms them into a positive creative force.  “It expresses to me that your situation can go on forever.  You don’t have to worry about this situation where you are living in the physical.  I believe in the metaphysical, because that’s where love comes from.”

His family has become a big influence on his creativity, but his history with street art always resurges.  When asked about artists he follows, he quickly references many street artists such as Crayola, Revok, Riff and the Seventh Letter crew, although he also appreciates Brian Mashburn and Bob Ross.  Street art has definitely changed since he started, Mando explains. “People are willing to pay graffiti artists tons of money, to do their graffiti.  Slick from K2S, he opened up a graffiti shop in Gardena.  But, he still gets paid to go to Basel, to go to different parts to do his style.  Before you wouldn’t have a fine art touch to graffiti, but now if you look at like Crayola, he has a fine art touch to graffiti.  So at this point, I love the evolution.”

Mondo looks positively to the future.  His dream is to retire with his wife, and thrive as a painter.  He states that his wish is simply “to live a very easy going life, that’s all that I am looking for, but I think that is asking a lot, because art isn’t that easy....but I think that anything is possible if you have the energy to try.”   

Mondo 59420's work is currently showing at Holy Grounds Coffee Shop.  He also collaborated on the show "Being Ernest Shackleton" at AWOL gallery, which was covered by the LA Times, LA Weekly and Curbed LA.  He is featured live artist at the El Sereno Dia de los Muertos Festival on Huntington Drive.  

All photos provided by Armando Bobadilla