Won Kim hasn’t always paid for his haircuts at Klicked Salon the normal way. He’s gotten some in exchange for painting murals at the hair salon at 470 N. Ogden Ave. in West Town.
Salon owner Magen Sabo had complained to Kim, a friend, that she didn’t like the signs at her then-new business. So they made a deal: Kim would redesign the signs in exchange for some haircuts and hair products.
It wasn’t the first time Kim has done something like that. He also has bartered his talents in exchange for drinks, meals, clothing.
Kim and Sabo say they’d been friends for years before Klicked Salon’s opening, but their friendship grew thanks to their deal. Kim, who is Korean American, says he appreciates how Sabo avoids giving him a “stereotypical” Asian male haircut. Helping each other out made their friendship grow “exponentially,” Kim says.
The faces gracing the walls of the salon aren’t based on any particular person, according to rawooh, who says his style developed from reading anatomy books and comic books. He says he wanted to make the faces seem more realistic to contrast with the fluid and flat-colored hair that Kim painted.
Kim started by doing a black-and-white mural at the salon, about 19 feet by 11.5 feet. He says Sabo wanted something attention-grabbing. So he decided to do a piece inspired by an X-ray image of hair follicles, incorporating the salon’s logo. It took him about three hours to do.
His second mural — the collaboration with rawooh, which took a few days to paint — was done a couple of months after that when Sabo had an outside wall she wanted to fill with art.
Rawooh, 33, has been collaborating on art with Kim since high school. Kim says he used to sneak him into events he organized at bars in the early 2000s, when rawooh was too young to get into bars, bringing together artists to sketch together.
“He came around, and his artwork was, like, super different and striking immediately,” Kim says. “We became friends, and I would offer wall space, and we would collab a lot more.”
Sabo says that, for her salon, she thought initially that whatever the pair came up with shouldn’t be too hair-related — but she ended up very happy with the result.
The mural they partnered on for her is more than 29 feet by seven feet. It continues the black-and-white theme of the X-ray mural, with pops of reds and pinks and grays in the faces, rawooh says, to give a more realistic look to the faces.
Kim says he thought rawooh’s style of painting matched Sabo’s aesthetic when cutting hair or styling models. Rawooh says he employs “controlled chaos” in his portraits with the movement of his brush strokes.
Kim also painted the inside of the business with similar themes.
Kim and Rawooh say they don’t plan much before a project.
“We just show up, and he does his thing, and I do my thing,” rawooh says. “And we kind of layer our work on top of each other until it looks decent.
“It’s come to a point where we could pretty much not say a word, and we’d just paint, and we’d know what our vision was for each other’s work.”