Take one look at the work of Alex Wallbaum and Aleia Murawski, and you can’t help but feel a burst of happiness from their use of eye-popping color. It comes as a surprise, then, that Wallbaum always dresses in all black—or perhaps it makes perfect sense, as the 26-year-old Champaign native prefers to let his art do the talking.
The newly freelance artists first met while working at cycling journal Tenspeed Hero in the West Loop. With Murawski’s background in painting and Wallbaum’s in photography, they became friends and collaborators, hitting Mariano’s together after work to find objects with which they’d create unusual compositions.
“It was something as simple as seeing what was in season and choosing a color,” says Wallbaum, who now lives in Pilsen.
Whatever hue they chose, they’d also make an alternate image in an opposing color— “essentially creating diptychs,” says 29-year-old Oak Park native Murawski, who recently moved to New Buffalo, Mich. At first, they did this so they’d each have a photo for Instagram (@alexwallbaum, @aleia), but eventually it became a great source of inspiration, forcing them to play off each other’s visions.
In each piece, whether it’s for fun or for corporate clients (Nike Chicago, Snowe Home, Cards Against Humanity), Wallbaum and Murawski manifest a signature style they describe as curious, chaotic and a little provocative. Backdrops and objects change, but vivid hues are constant.
“Color is therapeutic for me,” says Murawski. “We’re exposed to so much information throughout the day, and seeing a bright, inviting image, to me, is like a moment of relief."