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THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND THE BIZARRE

Absolut Obsession

July 11, 1999|Michele Botwin

At 2:30 a.m., when most night-crawlers are finding their way out of local bars, mixed-media artist Jon Planas is just walking in. With a gym bag slung over his shoulder, Planas makes the rounds at West Hollywood clubs Rage and Revolver, where bartenders save the night's Absolut vodka empties for him. He even scavenges through recycle bins in dark alleys, armed with a flashlight and wearing gloves, to pluck out some choice bottles. But he's not interested in getting back a 5-cent deposit. He's shooting for a far more lucrative return.

"The bottles are an extension of what I've done in my work by painting on materials other than canvas," Planas says. Known for his distinctive "Absolut City" billboard that once hovered above Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, Planas, 38, sells his signature hand-painted Absolut vodka bottles for $150 to $500 at the Larry Smith Fine Art gallery and his own studio.

In what he calls the "shake method," Planas fills the bottles with tempera and enamel paints to achieve a blown-glass or sandblasted effect. He then paints each with primitive and whimsical images--a guitar-playing angel, for instance. And he'll add details--of satellites, UFOs or his own hieroglyphics--with enamel paint markers, glitter pens and large colored stones.

"In the actual shake process, I do incantations and summon mystical energy," says the Peruvian-born Planas. "The bottles are not just decorative but symbolic, bringing good luck to the home." Do Planas customers Leonardo DiCaprio and Christina Applegate really need more luck?

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Jon Planas Studio of Art & Design, (323) 650-8422.

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