The Villa 221 at South Beach is having a spectacular showdown. The place is far from silent; a combination of strong bass and electronic music is thumping from over a block away. Those who have been invited are laughing, chatting, and drinking away the night; fun is had by all. But in the back mural, two figures are having quite the competition, and the artist Muta is not concerned at the moment with the lights, sounds and drinks passed around; he’s here to win and to show those at Villa or any visitor of sunny South Beach why he’s so damn good at what he does.
Muta’s road to such an event has been in the making for sometime. Muta (real name Amir Santiago) is like many young South Florida artists; having practicing their craft for sometime now. Unlike other artists, Muta does not stick to one artistic expression; he involves himself in illustrations, music, and promotions. Even at an event that is promoted for “graffiti artists”, Muta does not shy away from his humble beginnings and simultaneously gives respect to the proper peers:
“I don’t call it graffiti art…but I will say that my inspirations come from graffiti artists.” says Muta.
On a slightly windy January weekend, Muta has been invited to artistically battle at the aforementioned Villa. The Villa 221 (named after its very own address) has been host to a myriad of events. Birthday parties, galas, music gigs, weddings and promotional acts are only a few examples available to the public. It would be an insult to call the Villa a hidden gem of South Beach when large events have taken place at such a stunning looking venue.
Perhaps the most genius aspect of this beautiful Spanish villa is that its whopping 8,500 square feet hosts multiple events at the same time. Even at this art showdown, a birthday party, a club setting, and the art battle outside, all have a combined synergy to keep the festivities keep going through the night. The owner of this magnificent Villa, Mr. Aaron Goldstein, is quite proud of having to hosts so many events and so many wonderful guests. He casually introduces himself, and is quite happy with the atmosphere of the crowd:
“It’s like my own little playground.” he explains. But it’s a playground in the sense that Wonka owns a humble candy shop.
Stepping into the lively Villa, one is greeted by a D.J., playing present day hits as a crowd dances in what appears to be a living room. Walking past the sounds and lights of this club setting, another (private) party can be heard, but the double doors in the middle of the home are the ones that hold the biggest surprise. Opening them reveals the night’s main attraction; an entire back yard that has been converted into a street artist gallery. Even without the main event, dozens of artists have already begun to paint their own work. Large murals are on display, smaller works hang from yards off a tree, and local band Tusk is cranking out hits. Even a common safety barricade is not safe around this house of creativity as it’s been painted and converted into a cartoonish monster.
Underneath the shade, barely seeable, is Muta hosting his own friends and fans. Muta is happy to see every familiar face that has come out to support his moment. Many of these artists have come out representing the art styles of the “305isreal”. Muta does his best at presenting as many of these creative minds as possible. However, he reveals a few anxieties that are on his mind; none that would keep him from competing, but worried that with his opponent’s arrival, painting supplies would be scarce or insufficient for both of them. If Muta’s strategy is winning by honest sportsmanship, he’s clearly in top form.
A few hours into the night, Muta’s competition (some say the champ) has finally arrived. He goes by the name of “Coinslot”, a fairly well known artist within this particular genre of art. Two blank murals have been displayed side by side and coated to secure stability in each of the artist’s creations. No particular theme has been given, and both of the artists get to work on their respective side. Muta’s reaction to this moment has previously been simple, almost indifferent:
“I was called and they told me ‘hey, you’re battling Coinslot’, and I said ‘Okay’.” he simply says. This question was asked in the off hours when he is known as Amir. Tonight, Muta is in another zone when battling marker to marker with Coinslot.
At first, Muta’s work is unrecognizable. Coinslot clearly had an idea in mind, and his piece would soon reveal a turn of the century, dapper boxer punching out a caricature of Muta (pretty straight forward, without the needed drawing of “knockout”). But Muta’s image is clearly on another level. He literally draws another world of fantasy; a road on top of a hill is curved and wild, coins of fire are firing in every direction, and a malfunctioning coin dispenser is at the bottom of this madness. What was once a wild collection of shape and forms has now become a spontaneous display of talent, imagination, creativity, and light heartedness under Muta’s hand.
Even with the end of the competition, Muta’s work is not done. He takes the time to thank all of his guests and hope they had a good time. With all that was exhibited at the Villa 221, it would be hard not to have a great time. While the bartenders still serve drinks to new comers, people are busy conversing, and the artists are now taking the time to reflect on their work, one is left to wonder where the next journey of Muta’s talent will bring him. According to his personal Facebook quote, it could be anywhere:
“I AM FROM THE VALLEY OF THE WEIRD.”