RFX1 is the designer and artist behind the mental health awareness mural at Los Angeles High School, which was created in partnership with the Korean Integrated Mental Health Services Program (KISM) at KYCC’s Clinical Services, L.A. High School, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. His obsession with astrology, numerology and metaphysics created a spiritual foundation that can be found throughout his work. As a former KYCC client, he felt it had come “full circle” to work on the mural with KYCC.
Where is your hometown?
My hometown is Northridge. I was born in Glendale, but I moved to Northridge when I was in Kindergarten and lived in the Valley for most of my life. Northridge was very suburban and quiet.
I never fit in with the Korean kids. My family was very Americanized—my dad came to the states when he was 15 and my grandparents lived here longer than they were in Korea. My grandpa was a pretty important member of BCPC, a Presbyterian church.
Do you live or work in K-Town?
I lived here about four years ago with my girlfriend at the time for about a year. I lived around Beverly and Hobart.
Now, I am working on a mural at LA High in Koreatown which is something I’ve been wanting to do for mental health. KYCC was looking for a muralist for that specific reason, so I reached out to them after finding an ad online. It stood out to me because I used to go to KYCC as a kid for mental health treatment—I was seeing a psychiatrist and a counselor—but then I decided not to continue treatment as soon as I turned 18.
I’ve been struggling with my mental health since elementary school. For me, it was because of a head injury when I was in preschool. I was around 4 or 5 when a heavy garage door slammed on my head—I remember the whole thing very clearly. The whole thing closed and I was knocked unconscious. The doctors told my parents I would be fine, but I didn’t realize until my 20s that the accident had a profound effect on me. I used to have severe migraines in elementary school.
I saw the ad on artsforLA.org in October 2018 on the first day it was posted. I felt like I was definitely meant to do this project. It was coming full circle. I started going back to therapy a few months before I found the ad.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
I never liked Koreatown as a kid because the riots happened here. I associated Koreatown with danger as a kid. But my parents would always take me to go to markets, dentists, doctors, things like that.
I didn’t start hanging out in Koreatown until I graduated from high school. My friends always wanted to go to noraebangs but since I grew up in the Valley, we hung out in Hollywood a lot more.
I started an art class in Koreatown with my girlfriend about four years ago off 8th Street in the old KIWA building. We taught Pre-K to adults. The preschool kids liked creative things, and the middle school to high school students had more portfolio-intensive projects. We also had a few students in their 20s trying to get into art school.
We had one autistic kid who came in six days a week. I realized that he actually inspired a lot of my art today. His playfulness when it came to creating characters and his love for anime got me curious about anime, and now my art is starting to fuse with that style a little bit.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
I guess the Koreatown Plaza. That was the first shopping center in Koreatown. I do have a lot of memories there.
Going there with my parents— we’d eat food and shop, but mainly we’d hang out there. We’d sit there on the bench by the water and people watch. I remember sitting there a lot.
My parents were divorced, so that’s where they would do the trade-off. If I was staying with my dad, he would bring me there, and when I was staying with my mom, she would bring me there too. It was the only time both of my parents would be together with my sister and me.