Friday, September 29, 2006


. Tony Millionaire, comique artiste extraordinaire, has just released Der Strewwelmaakies, his third Maakies collection (and the followup to When We Were Maakies and The House at Maakies Corner.) If you've never opened your town's local independent-press news-rag and have thus deprived yourself of the chance to experience that which is Maakies, you could do worse than to pick up a copy. Unless you have an aversion to drunkenness, bodily excretions and the nautical life, that is.

. Electric Tiki is releasing a limited-edition 3-D sculpture (a full dimension higher than the two you are currently experiencing reading this!) of Ragnar's "The Maltese Chimp" - in four delicious flavours, no less. There's nothing like a drunk monkey harrassing a hot skeptical chick to liven up your work-station. You lily-liver.

. Displaying depths of hitherto-unknown hipness, "Weird" Al Yankovic has hired a number of very cool animators to create videos
for many of the original songs on his recently-released album, Straight Outta Lynwood: Bill Plimpton tackles "Don't Download This Song", John Kricfalusi and Katie Rice accomplish the astonishingly unlikely and "sex up" Weird Al in the video for "Close But No Cigar", and the kids behind Robot Chicken try their hand at "Weasel Stomping Day". All of these videos (and more!) are available on the DualDisc edition of the album currently for sale on Amazon, along with a Dolby 5.1 mix of the entire album. Sweet, sweet parody never looked, or sounded, better.

Remixing The Magic

Greg Simkins
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Rich Tuzon
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Jose Emroca Flores
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Joe Ledbetter
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Ryan Bubnis
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Alex Kirwan
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Last February, Los Angeles-based Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight opened their "Remixing the Magic: 50 Artists Reinterpret Disney Classics" exhibit (photos courtesy of Vinyl Pulse,) another entry in their series of themed group exhibits. It is, in a word, awesome. The list of contributors is comprised of an equal mix of underground pop artists (Jose Emroca Flores, Luke Chueh, Tim Biskup) and contemporary animation artists (Katie Rice, Alex Kirwan.) I'm particularly fond of Kirwan's homage to Ub Iwerks and his classic dancing-skeleton cartoons (pictured above,) and Greg Simkins' deliciously malevolent, yet somehow spot-on, tributes to Pinocchio and Disney's golden age.

While I'm hoping that "Remixing the Magic" gets the same treatment as their "I AM 8-BIT" group exhibit and is eventually released in book form, I'm not altogether optimistic, primarily because Disney has a virtual copyright stranglehold on their mascots. If the collection is ever published, chances are Disney will want to be involved in everything from layout design to distribution, and while this may result in wider availability and greater exposure for many of these artists (which would be far from awful,) it would also mean that Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight would play a much-reduced role and may in fact be cut out of the process altogether. It has been pointed out elsewhere that these artists are reclaiming what essentially, these days, amount to corporate logos, but which were once symbolic of the wonderful, whimsical power of the animation of our childhoods.

It's a ballsy move, especially in a cultural environment where copyright law has been so blown out of proportion that accidental violators are dragged into court and sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it brings up the question, "Does an artist's visual style constitute parody in and of itself, thereby freeing it from litigation under the fair use doctrine? Or is any drawing of Mickey Mouse a potential infringement?"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I AM 8-BIT, pt. II

Back in April, I wrote about the I AM 8-BIT group exhibit at Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight (who, incidentally, with their recent Disney-themed "Remixing the Magic" group exhibit - expect an update on that sometime this week - along with I AM 8-BIT, are rapidly becoming one of my favorite L.A. pop art gallery.)

Today I finally received my copy of "I AM 8-BIT: Art Inspired By Classic Videogames of the 80s" from Amazon, and... wow. Considering the remarkably low price ($15 plus shipping,) I was not expecting it to be even half as lovely as it actually is. Every one of its 156 pages reproduces a glossy, full-colour print that was featured in the show, and although it doesn't provide complete coverage - there are a few works from the exhibit that are nowhere to be found here, and a few that I suspect were actually done after the show, specifically for inclusion in the book - it is certainly a comprehensive look at 8-bit videogame-inspired art.

There are art books and there are art books. This is the sort of book you actually want on your coffee table: anyone under the age of 30 is going to freak right out when they see it. Forget "Historic Barns of Minnesota" - Do yourself a favour and order this book right now. Or wait for the second volume to come out (no guarantees, of course, but they've had at least two seperate I AM 8-BIT shows, so Gallery 1988 has no shortage of material) and order them together. You won't regret it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Femke Hiemstra

Cheery Cooky


Lucky the Cat

Dutch artist and designer Femke Hiemstra has an incredibly unique and quirky Lowbrow style that evokes the work of Mark Ryden, Robert Williams, and Gary Taxali. I'm quite fond of her cheerful, cartoonish characters and innovative concepts, and I find her to be considerably less cynical than the artists mentioned above (who, as much as I love them, all tend to be rather consistently creepy in their work.) On her website Femtasia, Hiemstra sells prints, shirts and buttons, and while it all looks to be of excellent quality, I'm most impressed with the button designs. Unlike some artists, Hiemstra seems deeply unpretentious and down-to-earth, recognising the convoluted, interwoven relationship between art and commerce, and the fact that she is willing to translate her art into merchandise and sell it to, well, anyone (and not just the people who can afford five hundred bucks for a print) is refreshingly egalitarian. I highly, highly recommend ordering a handful of her buttons or a couple of patches (which she has awesomely dubbed "Gewgaws") or even a Giclée print, which are a veritable steal at 145 Euros each. Prints can be ordered through her website, and buttons, Gewgaws and shirts can be ordered either directly from her or via Buzzworks.

Femke Hiemstra will also be participating in the international "Ladies Only" show at Vancouver's own Tart Gallery, March 8th and 9th. Since it's in my hometown, I'll be making a point of checking it out, and I encourage anyone in the area to do so as well.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cartoon Skeletons

"Hello Kitty", Michael Paulus

"Betty Boop", Michael Paulus

"Marvin the Martian", Michael Paulus

"B11 (Mus Animatus)", Hyungkoo Lee

"Geococcyx Animatus", Hyungkoo Lee

"Anas Animatus", Hyungkoo Lee

Michael Paulus' "Skeletal Systems" figure study of 22 cartoon characters has been around for a while - since 1998, in fact - and I've always considered it one of the, if not the, coolest and most novel take on the concept of anatomical analysis I've ever seen. Along with the characters pictured above, the series includes dissections of Pikachu, Charlie Brown, and the Powerpuff Girls - all of them, I might add, conforming to the precise anatomical requirements of their owners. On top of the tremendous novelty factor already present in this concept, I also find it highly amusing that Paulus has chosen to present his work in the way that he has, with semi-transparent overlays on top of parchment paper, in the style of a 19th C. medical textbook insert. Seriously, how cool is that?

Taking a cue from Paulus, Korean artist Hyungkoo Lee goes a step further with the concept of "cartoon skeleton" and actually builds the damn things, out of resin and aluminum. His series, called "Animatus", is currently featured in installation at the Arario Gallery in Seoul until October 8th, but luckily for anyone not currently living in Korea, the gallery has put up an in-depth video (Quicktime) taking a look not only at the installation itself, but also at Lee's process in designing and constructing the skeletons, apparently working from his lab\studio housed within the gallery itself.