On Friday at One Woodward in Campus Martius, world-renowned artist Leon Keer wrapped up a two dimensional mural – that looks like three dimensions – in the lobby of the Quicken Loans headquarters that is nothing short of mind blowing.
According to his website, Keer, who hails from the Netherlands, learned to paint through his work designing and producing large advertising murals for multinational companies like Coca-Cola. His knowledge of materials, acquired by painting on various foundations for his clients, led to an interest in experimenting with materials and techniques.
A video game fan, Keer said the design was largely inspired the arcade classic, Pac Man, which he hopes inspires a feeling of playfulness, creativity, and nostalgia in the viewer.
While some of his work presents socially driven messages on issues such as environmental sustainability and other modern challenges, he aimed to make this piece more light hearted.
“This is more of a fun piece. It’s not so much that there is a social issue in it. You can see Bedrock, the guys who asked me to do this, as a kind of Pac Man that is developing all the buildings. You can see social issues in my artwork, but it’s not that I want to point the finger- it’s more open to the viewers discrecion and interpretation,” said Keer when I talked to him at One Campus Martius.
He says the inspiration for his work is driven by the people and places he meets as he travels from city to city to create these murals. He surveys a city, then talks to folks in the local bars and restaurants to piece together a story about what’s happening in that particular place, and that’s what ultimately takes shape on the canvass.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the highly detailed and flawlessly executed mural is that it was completed in just four days, and in a public space where Keer was constantly fielding questions from passers by.
“I love to work,” he said, “And I love the interaction going on amidst the creative process. When I’m there for four days people can interact with me as an artist by asking questions about my techniques and this art form; that’s what I like.”
To create the piece, Keer used acrylic paint on a large sheet of vinyl, and some remarkably precise mathematics to create the astounding 3D experience.
Another intriguing aspect of his work is its transient nature. This particular mural will live in the space for about four weeks, but generally, Keer leaves his outdoor pieces to die by more natural causes.
“For me, this is temporary artwork. When I work outside with chalk, the rain will just wash it away. For me it’s about the creative process, and what happens after is just public domain. Now it’s owned by everybody and that’s fun.”
We also spoke with with James Millar, the Director of Activation with Bedrock, who assisted in the effort to bring Keer to Detroit.
“When it comes to projects like this we want to try and get the most interactive and experiential murals that will help make Detroit as unique as it is,” he said, “and finding Leon, who’s incredibly talented and huge in the 3D anamorphic art world, was great. ”
“Leon conceptualized the whole thing after arriving in Detroit. We gave him complete creative freedom because he contours every mural to the environment. What I love is that he was able to put one of his more playful, interactive pieces here,” said Millar.
“It’s been really fun watching him do it, too,” Millar continued, “everyone that walks by and asks him what he’s doing are just stopped in their tracks. It’s been great to watch and I’m looking forward to the coming weeks of watching people discover it on their own.”
As we wrapped up out conversation, I asked Keer if he thinks he’ll return to Detroit.
“I’d like to if they invite me! I didn’t see as much of Detroit as I would have liked to because I was working mainly downtown. I know there are many more areas to explore. My plan right now before I leave is to go to the DIA to see the Diego Rivera painting. It’s famous all over, but you have to see it live.”