Archive for the ‘Obsessions’ Category

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Popy Toy Catalogs

April 12, 2010

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I’ve been spending some time cleaning out my studio, and when I found these 70′s vintage Popy toy catalogs, I felt the need to scan-and-share. Aside from the obvious and gratuitous display of voluptuous toy pr0n, I’m digging the photography and graphic design, which, like pretty much everything from Japan, goes that extra mile to make even the most simple piece of promo/commercial ephemera look irresistible. Just look at that type treatment! Probably hand-drawn, too. The JM (standing for “Jumbo Machinder”) shield/stamp on the back is wonderful too.

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Look at that photo! What red-blooded little kid could possibly resist its siren song? Not me – I have collected a lot of the stuff depicted on this page.

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This catalog was included with a boxed Jumbo Machinder accessory fist attachment. Jumbo Machinders were two-foot-tall renditions of anime giant robots, made from the same blow-molded plastic used to make shampoo bottles. Due to the storage constraints of the typical Japanese family home, very few of them survived the seventies, and all but a few ended up as gomi.

Here in America, Mattel brought over a few hardy examples and sold them as Shogun Warriors.

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Accessory fists!

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I guess those little red missiles and spring-loaded fists weren’t enough of an injury-to-the-eye liability magnet for Popy, so they brought out a whole line of accessories to complete the job.

I have yet to find a complementary kid-sized eyepatch with a Popy logo, but I’m sure I’ll turn one up eventually.

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Clearly ZZ-6 is the money melon of the accessory fist series. It is a giant fist, made from a boulder, that SHOOTS MISSILES. I can think of no better example of the uniquely Japanese concept of AWESOME AND DESTROY.

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And then there’s ZZ-8, the Fortress Of Fists. For when you need a Guns Of Navarone-styled rocky emplacement to proudly display all this lethal weaponry.

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Each of the accessories came with a proof-of-purchase coupon, and when you had a complete set, you could send away to Popy for this little beauty, a suitcase/robot garage for your jumbo.

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This is another, smaller catalog from another box, with a nice selection of jumbos and diecast chogokin.

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The guys on the right are Jumbo Machinder villains, all from Mazinger Z. These are some of the rarest items in the jumbo pantheon. The guy in the middle of the bottom row, named Garada K-7? Only three are known to exist. The last time one was on the market, it sold for five figures.

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Toy Shelf Pr0n

April 11, 2010

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More here.

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Close Friend (The Origin Of The World)

April 7, 2010

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“You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all.” – Sherlock Holmes

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink, created in 1960, is an iconic figure in the world of hot rodding, and it is singularly iconic in the world of Lowbrow Art. It is the Venus Of Willendorf, Michaelangelo’s David, the Mona Lisa, and Duchamp’s Fountain, all in one, the Alpha and Omega of Lowbrow art, both in the exuberance of the linework and the outlaw sneer it represents.

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Robt. Williams, the spiritual father of Lowbrow, who worked at Roth Studios in the late 60′s, has always claimed Roth as an artistic and spiritual influence, and Williams’ own art has always upheld the lawlessness and impolite nature of Roth’s body of work.

Now Lowbrow Art, or to use the more respectable moniker “Pop Surrealism”, is no longer the bad kid hiding behind the garage, and is well on the way to being an established, legitimate part of the “real” art world.

And that’s a shame.

Everything is co-opted, nothing is shocking anymore.

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In 1865, Edward Manet exhibited “Olympia” at the Paris Salon. The public was outraged. Manet had referenced a painting by Titian, “Venus Of Urbino”, but transposed the image to a contemporary setting, and changed the subject from a goddess to a prostitute. Now, more than a hundred years later, the painting hangs in the Musée d’Orsay without a single complaint. I’m sure you can buy a postcard of it in the gift shop.

Also in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay is another painting, painted one year later by Gustave Courbet. “L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World)” is a painting of a nude woman’s torso, isolated in the composition so that the face and extremities are unseen. All that is visible are her voluptuous curves, one breast, and her genitals. Originally painted as a private commission, it passed through the hands of several owners, and was never on public display until the late 20th century.

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As harmless as these images seem today, they caused outrage and apoplexy in their time.

But I digress.

Several years ago, I was working in my studio on another project, when inspiration, or the Imp of The Perverse (perhaps they are one and the same) struck. It was one of those moments when an image enters the brain fully-formed and complete, and all that is required of the artist is to commit it to paper or canvas. I quickly sketched out the image, and shortly thereafter produced a finished inked drawing.

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I knew immediately it was something I had to use. It was a true Surrealist image, one that sprang forth from my subconscious with no prior thought or plan.

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But I also realized how provocative the image was, and not just for obvious reasons. In the world of Lowbrow, Rat Fink is a cherished icon, an image to be worshipped, and I was defacing it, like Duchamp drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa – perhaps worse; I was doing a lot more than drawing a mustache after all. It was undeniably vulgar, even juvenile.

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I put it away, only showing the drawing to a few people at the time. But it stayed in my mind, forcing me to put it on a canvas, to make it into something more. Finally I did.

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It came together very quickly. Even I was shocked by how fast it came to be. Again, it was painted almost without conscious thought, as if it already existed in my brain fully formed, and only required me to take the steps to make it real.

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The “C. F.” was originally meant to be the initials of another, more vulgar phrase, but as I was painting, “Close Friend” popped into my head, and I knew that was the real title, the saccharine sentiment contained in the phrase making for a nice balance with the many and conflicting interpretations available to the image. “Origin Of The World” was added as a namecheck to Courbet, and also to reference the role of Rat Fink and Ed Roth, in their influence on my own work, and Lowbrow Art in general.

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I know this painting will piss off a lot of people, even some of my fellow artists, who will be offended by my trashing of one of their icons. Having said that, i think it is the best, most honest work I have ever done.

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On The Road

October 16, 2009

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On my way to Mexico. Photos here.

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La Carrera Panamericana 2009

October 13, 2009

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It’s that time of year again… Wednesday morning, I hit the road with my copiloto, Gerie “Th’ Perfesser” Bledsoe, race car in tow, on our way to La Carrera Panamerica 2009.

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Last year’s race was cut short for us, due to gross mechanical failure, but this year, with a new engine and master builder/mechanic Todd Landon along for the fun, we hope to do much better than last time.

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Updates will be made on this here blog, as time and Mexican internet tubes permit.

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For more photos from last year’s race, click here.

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Billiken, 1600 Washington Blvd.

October 9, 2009


I’ve been obsessed with this little guy ever since I used to live in a nearby building. Today, I remembered that I was about to drive past on the way back from getting some paint, so I whipped out the Leica and grabbed a few shots at the stoplight.

Hard to believe he’s survived all this time, but his inacessibility (he’s about 12 feet off the sidewalk) might have something to do with it. Notice also that when the building was earthquake retrofitted, they made a nice u-shaped brace to go around his little alcove, instead of just destroying it in the name of expediency.


L.A. is a place where you can find magic and oddness, but you have to be patient and wait for it to come out of hiding, into the light. You always get rewarded with stuff like this.


Oh, and what’s a billiken? Glad you asked.

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Fink Ephemera: Ed “Big Daddy” Roth Water Slide Decals

October 8, 2009

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I scanned a huge chunk of my Ed “Big Daddy” Roth collection, and uploaded the whole sweet mess to my Flickr account.

I know that some of these images are controversial or downright offensive in these more PC times, (just like i’m offended by hipsters wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, but that’s another story) but I ask you to consider the era and intended audience. Roth’s entire output was meant to be obnoxious and offensive to the "squares," as his customer base consisted of surly teens, hot rod hooligans and outlaw bikers, all groups who loved to provoke the ire of the buttondown crowd by using symbols and images that were in bad taste. (see also the “sick humor” fad of the sixties.) Likewise, Roth’s Vietnam output was intended solefy for the poor bastards drafted and shipped overseas to fight in a war that they had no interest in fighting. To the extent that these images feature racist asian imagery, well, yeah, of course they do. I think the guys sweating in the jungle in ‘Nam were less than concerned about offending the sensibilities of the people they were killing and being killed by. If it’s any consolation, I know for a fact that today’s armed forces don’t allow imagery like this to be used anymore.

Here’s a few choice gems:

race?

speed addict

do unto charlie then split

lover boy 1st version

wayside honor farm

devil baby color
street racer

down mit der local fuzz

uncle roth wants you

death before dishonor

Full set here.

P.S. All this stuff is © copyright Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, so don’t be a fink!

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Downtown L.A.

October 7, 2009

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More photos here.

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Don Mossi: The Premature Ejaculator’s Best Friend

October 6, 2009






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Paintblogging: Killing The Devil

October 6, 2009

The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it. – Paul-Muad’Dib Atreides

In 1993, my friend Tom Hazelmyer contacted me about providing an image for a line of custom Zippo lighters. The company was called Smoke King, (later re-named Flamerite) and I was to be one of the first five artists in the line. In about 30 minutes, I whipped up an image of a grinning devil smoking a big cigar. I was in such a hurry to get that art to Tom, (this was before I could simply email the art as an attachment) I just stuck the original in a manila folder and sent it off to Minneapolis.

I was just beginning to dip my toe into merchandising at this point, and I quickly saw that the smoking devil I had drawn for Tom was a potent image. I began to print the image on stickers and t-shirts. They sold like those proverbial hotcakes that everybody mentions at times such as this. Eventually, the devil image ended up on just about any item that I could print it on. The Smoking Devil (as we named him) made his way into the world.

He quickly gained a life of his own. Lots of cars, trucks and skateboards, tool boxes, laptops, etc. ended up plastered with a Smoking Devil sticker. I started to meet people with the Smoking Devil tattooed on their body. It was at this point that I started to realize that I had, pretty much by accident, created something powerful. However those lines and forms came together, it had a power all its own. It was becoming something more than a piece of art or merchandise. It had become a symbol of something, a little talisman that people used to signify something about themselves and their lives. Pretty heady stuff for a dumb hillbilly such as myself.

As is often the case when an image reaches this level of recognition, it started to become bigger, something that was beyond my control. Like Frankenstein’s Monster, the creation often thwarted the will of its creator. The Smoking Devil started to pop up in places where I never intended it to be. It was knocked off as merchandise, used without permission to adorn bars and businesses. I began to understand how Nagel must have felt the first time he saw one of those hideous paintings in the window of a nail salon. (That’s probably what killed him.)

I tried to accept this philosophically. I understood how all this worked, how our culture takes popular art and fucks with it, remixes it, makes the mass-produced personal. After all, my favorite artists and musicians do it every day, right? But it still gnawed at me sometimes.

Around 2003, I decided to return to painting. I spent a long time thinking about why I wanted to paint again, and what I could do that would be interesting and challenging to me, what direction would force me to grow and change as an artist. I began to formulate a plan of attack, a direction that incorporated my influences with my developing ideas about what art should do and not do.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Pop Art, and that became a major influence on what I was going to try to do, I began to think about the stuff I loved, the way Pop Art took the low culture we took for granted, recontextualized it, and presented it as art, worthy of attention and affection. The conventional wisdom is that this was purely an exercise in irony, a criticism of the base nature of consumer culture, but I have always read more into it than that. To me, artists like Warhol or Rosenquist were ambivalent about the culture they mined, and saw it as both beautiful and crass, often simultaneously. As someone attempting to straddle both sides of the fence, I could dig that.

So, when I started to paint, I realized what I needed to do is use this method on my own work, on the images that I had created and released into the wild years ago. They had (mostly) thrived in this uncontrolled environment, changing and evolving outside of my control. Now it was time to drag them back into the lab, dissect ‘em and see what wild mutations had affected their DNA.

I spent the next six months painting Parts with Appeal, a 78-foot-long multipanel painting that was my first try at using the theories that I had been messing around with. An obvious tribute to Rosenquist’s F-111, it was my own meditation on the role of innovation in the history of drag racing from 1955 to 1970, as well as an attempt to engage in the kind of large-scale painting I had always wanted to try. Best of all, somebody actually bought it.

So the experiment continued. I started to drag in more and more elements and techniques into the format I had created for myself, figuring it out as I went along. I had another show in 2006, Brand Recognition, that addressed my ambivalence about my own fascination with corporate logos and the art of graphic design in service of commerce.

Since then I’ve continued to paint, documenting it all here on the blog. Painting has become a very satisfying pursuit, the process becoming an often-exhausting ritual that consistently fulfills me like nothing else.

For this most recent painting, I decided to pull together all the elements that I have been working on, and put them to the task of assaulting the thing I have become most known for, the Smoking Devil.

As I said before, he had become something bigger than me, and had developed a life of his own. I wanted to attack the Smoking Devil, break him apart, smash him into atoms, and once again assert my will over the monster I had created.

I started as I always do, developing the composition by collaging elements in Photoshop, combining and changing images until a direction presents itself. Then the image is broken down into elements that can be transferred to the canvas, step by step. I started by painting a straightahead version of the Smoking Devil, much as he appears on all those stickers and lunchboxes.

I almost chickened out at this point. I realized that I could just clean up the linework, present the painting as it was, and it would be sold quickly. However, I did not succumb to temptation (see how that works?) and continued with my plan.

Next, I took the line art, reversed and enlarged it, painting it on top of everything else. That was the second devil. I had already decided by this point that there would be thirteen devils incorporated into the painting by the time I was finished.

Next, I took the painting down from the wall, laid it on the floor, and using a hand-cut stencil, painted nine more devils in an alternating grid. I used cans of metallic gold and orange metalflake paint that I had purchased at Pep Boys.
Again, I was tempted at this point to stop. The gold and orange looked so good against the purple and orange, the metallic gleam contrasting with the shiny acrylic paint.

I continued, painting the black line of the original devil on top of the newer elements, to reassert the authority of the original image.

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Then, I used Photoshop to create a halftone image of the original line art, and painted this in magenta on top of everything else, then repainted the black line work again, to clean everything up. This was the twelfth devil. Then, I painted the thirteen and final devil, and I was finished.

So, did I accomplish the task I set out fo myself? I’m not really sure. I’m happy with the painting, but I’ll probably never successfully take back the image for my own. I won the battle, but I think I will eventually lose the war.

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Oh, and the thirteenth devil? That’s secret. you’ll have to wait for the show to discover that one for yourself.

Full set of in progress photos here.

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