Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Santa Monica are famous cities you can unlock drew label.’s hidden works of art. Label’s creative works include “toast.” as well as the August 6 launch of his “label. LA” app. Using an augmented reality app format, the 15 street art installations pop up at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, and other famous locales.
Art is riding on the crest of the wave of AR technology. Artists have used canvases, city walls, and now use mobile phones as a direct medium to express their artistic vision. drew label. has the spirit of DIY and a no limits perspective. The new augmented reality app exists in a unique era of art history. This is where tech, typically bound by code, has converged with boundaryless art.
Juanita: Art is powerful, evocative, humorous, and can really leave a mark on how we view the world. The digital art pieces for your “label. LA” app are an impressive balance of cheeky with pop culture references, while also putting a crucial lens on social issues impacting the world.
drew label.: I appreciate that, and I couldn’t agree more. One of the reasons that visual art can make a big impact on society is because it’s… visual! And AR takes that to a whole other level. When you can actually see imaginary objects overlaid in the real world, like a homeless camp along Rodeo Drive, my hope is that it becomes an even more powerful artistic experience.
Juanita: As an artist, who or what inspired or influenced you to work with AR technology?
drew label.: One of the things that really defines my work as an artist is exploration. I just want to learn and experiment with everything in order to find creative mashups between mediums. So, early this year, I was teaching myself to program apps in my spare time and I came across augmented reality. I immediately saw the opportunity to share my own artwork through AR, and I started quickly prototyping this app.
One of the reasons that visual art can make a big impact on society is because it’s… visual! And AR takes that to a whole other level.
As I got into it, it was like a blank canvas unfolding because the opportunities are limitless. I realized I could place my work inside museums without permission, I could place art in public spaces without permits, and I could do things that have never been done before (like 3D versions of famous paintings that would otherwise be physically impossible), and so much more.
Juanita: Which augmented reality programs or applications did you use for the “label. LA” app and art design?
drew label.: I used Apple’s free Xcode environment, including their ARKit API, which is fantastic and does much of the heavy lifting of creating AR apps. For the art design, I primarily used the free Blender 3D modeling software.
This is an incredible part of the AR story at the moment – the tools are democratized, free, and are becoming easier and easier to use. In fact, Facebook’s new Spark AR platform is so easy that artists can create AR art in a drag-and-drop environment with no coding experience. The barriers preventing us from creating and sharing digital art just keep getting lower.
Juanita: You have 15 art installations waiting to be found all around Los Angeles. Such a great idea! There are no city permits needed for AR. There is only artistic license! Love this.
drew label.: The thing I’m most excited about with AR art is what it represents. For the first time, we can reach our audience directly. Unless you’re one of the ten big-name contemporary artists, as I am not, your opportunities to show your work to the public are so small. AR changes all that. Now, we can reach anyone with a smartphone, with no middlemen or gatekeepers restricting what we can or cannot do. Now, we’re limited only by the things we can imagine.
Juanita: How does the “label. LA” app activate art like “made in the image of the locals.” in Beverly Hills or the “earth, 2120.” at the Observatory appear on our phones?
drew label.: Under the hood, the app uses reference images to know where to place the 3D models. When you open the app’s AR camera and point it towards one of these scenes that I pre-defined in the app, it displays the artwork in relation to that scene. For example, it knows to recognize the big doors of the Griffith Observatory, so when you point the app at them, it automatically places the “earth, 2120.” model in the right location based on that information. The app provides clear instructions for finding the reference scenes for each exhibit.
Juanita: Our readers with Apple phones can download the app in the store. Will the “label. LA” app also be on Android?
drew label.: At this point, it won’t, unfortunately. Perhaps down the road, but the app is iOS only for the time being.