by Stephen Garner

Celebrating freedom of expression, appreciation of the arts, and its California roots, global lifestyle brand Ugg has signed on to sponsor the opening weekend of the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2020, presented in partnership with The Huntington.

The fifth iteration of the acclaimed biennial, which will open fall 2020 and run through the end of the year, features 30 Los Angeles-based emerging artists through works including new installations, videos, films, sculptures, performances, and paintings, many commissioned specifically for the exhibition. Over the years, the museum, which is part of the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA, has gained notoriety as one the most progressive art institutions in the world and Made in L.A. has been revered as a mainstay of California culture.

To honor the partnership, Ugg showcases two Made in L.A. 2020 artists, Fulton Leroy Washington (aka Mr. Wash) and Sonya Sombreuil in “FEEL ____,” which is a series of powerful films that celebrate Californian artists who tell personal stories about their lives, their work, and what fuels their creativity.

The “FEEL ____” video featuring Mr. Wash is set inside his home apartment/art studio in Compton, California. We learn the incredible story of artist Fulton Leroy Washington, a man who adopted drawing, painting and creative storytelling while in jail, where he spent twenty-one years after being convicted of a nonviolent drug offense in the late 1990s.  The inconceivable sentence at the time was life imprisonment, a policy set during the era of the “War on Drugs”, however President Barack Obama commuted his sentence and granted him clemency in 2016.

Mr. Wash’s first subjects were his fellow inmates: he created elaborate photorealistic portraits of his cohort, often setting them in idyllic landscapes, dressed in civilian clothing and free. Other portraits depicted the inmates’ psychological fissures, including large tears drawn on their faces; some portraits were adorned with paintings within the paintings of fears or anxieties the subjects had shared with their portraitist.

In “FEEL ____,” we are bestowed with the wisdom and advice from Mr. Wash, “Hydrate yourself, get some exercise, do something useful with your time.” The viewer also gets a preview of one of his Made in L.A. 2020 paintings, a solemn tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.

“We are really proud to partner with the Hammer, one of the foremost museums in the country known for their belief that art and ideas illuminate our lives and build a more just world,” said Andrea O’Donnell, president of fashion lifestyle at Deckers Brands, the parent company of Ugg. “They are the perfect partner to launch our autumn/winter season and ‘FEEL.’ Ugg has always been an emotional brand and we believe that the personal stories of Mr. Wash and Sonya Sombreuil are important reflections of what it means to be a human being today.”