Kobe Bryant Murals Are All Over Los Angeles. Meet One Of The Artists

Art Gozukuchikyan painted a Kobe Bryant mural outside of VEM Exotic Rentals on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Art Gozukuchikyan didn't want to believe the first text message he got. Or the first news report he saw. Or the second. Or the third.

Gradually, though, reality set in: Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were dead. The news hit Gozukuchikyan hard.

But within an hour, Gozukuchikyan — an artist who also goes by the name "Artoon" — had resolved to do something with his grief: "I should paint him. He deserves to be painted."

And then another lightbulb went off: Gozukuchikyan's friends had already commissioned him to paint murals on the exterior of their specialty car rental business in Studio City — but they hadn't yet settled on a subject for the blank wall facing Ventura Boulevard.

"We were probably going to do Marilyn Monroe," Gozukuchikyan said. "We didn't know what we were going to do. When [Bryant died], what more of a sign do you want?"

He called the owners: "I hit them up and said, 'We have to do Kobe.'"

Within 24 hours, "Artoon" had finished a tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant. His murals in Studio City and in Mid-City are two of the dozens of public memorials that have appeared across Southern California in the month since the Jan. 26 crash.

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"We were all huge Kobe fans," said Victor Preciado, manager of Studio City's VEM Exotic Rentals, which commissioned one of Gozukuchikyan's murals.

"What a better place than to put Kobe on the front of our building," added Preciado, "to show everyone, look, this is Los Angeles, right here."

Víctor Preciado, manager at VEM Exotic Rentals, with a McLaren 600LT in Laker colors parked in front of a Kobe Bryant mural at the business' location in Studio City. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Right away, Gozukuchikyan went to work on his two-story canvas. As he painted late into the night and into the next day, a crowd of Bryant mourners — still processing the news themselves — came to watch.

"You feed off of people's energy — people coming up to you, crying, thanking you," he said.

"There were so many people gathered here that I kinda got emotional," remembered Gozukuchikyan. "I got on the lift and put myself all the way up there, just so I could get a little teary-eyed in peace."

Prayer candles and other tributes left near a mural for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Studio City. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Why did Bryant's death trigger so many emotions, for Gozukuchikyan and for the crowd that came to watch?

"Because [Bryant] was L.A.," he said. "You can't pick someone that was more L.A. This guy started in L.A. and finished his career in L.A ... He brought a lot of pride to this city."

To view Gozukuchikyan's work in person, head to this location. For others lists of Kobe Bryant murals to visit, check out these lists from the site Artnet and the YouTube channel "California Through My Lens."

Art Gozukuchikyan painted a Kobe Bryant mural on the street-facing wall of VEM Exotic Rentals on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)