Have you painted any good movies lately?
A new wave of pop artists have, splashing canvases with adoration of their favorite films. Others sculpt their regard, or mix various media. Anything to express the joys of repeatedly viewing movies that shape their perspective of the world, and what art can be.
"These artists are raised on a new kind of inspiration," said Jensen Karp, whose Gallery 1988 studio in Santa Monica, Calif., just wrapped its fifth annual "Crazy4Cult" exhibit of cult movie art.
"They aren't necessarily looking to the masters anymore, Picasso or Matisse. Their real inspirations are Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Kevin Smith — all these new sources of inspiration for technically great artists."
Titan Books recently published Cult Movie Art, a coffee-table compilation of the best works from Crazy4Cult's previous exhibits. Flipping through its pages is like taking Inception trips into cine-geek dreams: colorful, twisted tributes to clockwork oranges, Edward's scissor hands, Pee-wee's bike and other films withstanding the test of time and sometimes taste.
It's a trend embraced by filmmakers like Smith (Clerks, Mallrats), who wrote the book's introduction and whose "Jay and Silent Bob" characters are popular subjects. Smith has purchased several gallery pieces, as have edgy auteurs Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead). Karp views this as birds of a creative feather flocking.
"Artists gravitate toward artists," Karp said by telephone. "It's a very outsider kind of field. These guys aren't mainstream, and neither are the directors inspiring them. They stand by their ideas, and don't change just because the mainstream is doing a certain thing."
The idea for Crazy4Cult came easily to Karp, a former film school student who opened Gallery 1988 seven years ago with partner Katie Cromwell near the "adult, stuffy" section of Melrose Avenue galleries.
"They wouldn't treat anyone under 30 with any sort of respect," Karp said. "The paintings they offer just doubled that thought — trying to sell canvases with three red dots on them for $50,000. We knew there was a need to create a youth-based, pop culture-spirited art world."
That notion expanded to Gallery 1988's Venice Beach branch, which recently hosted a 10th anniversary tribute to the campfire farce Wet Hot American Summer, which lured co-stars Paul Rudd and Christopher Meloni. Currently the Venice Beach gallery dedicates an exhibit to Pee-wee Herman titled "I Know You Art But What Am I?"
Karp occasionally hears purists complain that such works lack the measure of originality to qualify as true art. Those people, he said, are his favorite types to ignore.
"We never try to convert anyone because we don't want them on our team," Karp said. "We opened this gallery purely to make fun of those people, the idea that they don't see anything artistic outside of what they've been told is art.
"We were raised in a hip-hop, MTV generation, and these are honors and tributes to our films. The artists aren't just photocopying images they've seen. They're not fan artists; they are artists who are fans."
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365.
This Boy Is a Hero
J.W. Buchanan, Little Friends of Printmaking, Milwaukee
“Pee-wee's Big Adventure was a movie I watched a hundred or so times as a child. It's forever burned into my brain. The pet shop sequence is such an amazing little gem, so affecting, and the final moment, when Pee-wee collapses in a fit of exasperation and terror, is a totally relatable, human moment in an otherwise silly movie. It's like a kiddie Au Hasard Balthazar, filtered through a Warner Brothers cartoon."
The Prophecy of Frank
Scott Scheidly, Winter Park
"Donnie Darko was an easy pick for me. Surrealism, psychology, doomsday — some of my favorite subject matter, and it's the only movie I have ever watched back to back. This movie picked me."
Little Violet Beauregarde
Shannon Bonatakis, Denver
"When I was little, I wasn't sure whether I loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or if I was completely terrified by it. As an adult, I'm still drawn to children's material that pushes boundaries, and I continue to have a strong affinity for Roald Dahl's unique brand of quirkiness. I chose Violet Beauregarde as my subject because her peculiar fate was always my favorite. Anyone that obnoxious about gum chewing surely deserves to be turned into a giant blueberry."
Rich Pellegrino, Warwick, R.I.
“The Big Lebowski is one of those movies with characters that we all relate to in one way or another. Walter in particular is someone we all have met at some point. He's just a dude with some serious issues deeply rooted in his past. I love how polite and courteous he is one minute, and having flashes of borderline insanity from 'Nam flashbacks the next. I wanted to capture that boiling-over moment, the moment just as he's about to explode."
Crazy4Cult 4 Show Poster
Mike Mitchell, Los Angeles
"When Jensen asked me to do (2010's) poster, I was pretty pumped about it. A lot of my favorite movies are considered 'cult,' which made selecting the characters even easier. When I decided to put them all in a movie theater arrangement, the 3-D glasses were just what it needed to make it more fun, and cohesive."
m Mushroom-Cloud Layin' MF, Billy Perkins