On April 25, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles will be premiering the career survey exhibition of artist, illustrator and toy designer Gary Baseman.
Titled GARY BASEMAN: THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN, this first major museum survey of the artist’s life and work features paintings, photographs, toys, sketchbooks, and videos. The gallery setting will evoke Baseman’s childhood home in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, with many authentic pieces including the artist’s family furnishings.
On opening day, the public is welcome to celebrate the new exhibition in a playful way by attending “Gary Baseman’s House Party,” starting at 7:30 p.m. Gary Baseman will “play paintbrushes,” creating a spontaneous new artwork while indie rock band Nightmare and the Cat performs live. A DJ set by street artist and designer Shepard Fairey, as well as gallery tours and art-making activities, round out the evening. The event is open to adults only, 18+, and advance ticket purchase is strongly advised.
The opening-night program will be followed up by many Baseman-related talks, workshops, performances, and family programs during the run of the exhibition, which closes August 18, 2013.
Baseman uses the word “pervasive” to describe a hybrid practice of art making that confounds easy categorization. “I see myself as an artist who likes to do everything—all the time,” he says.
In the exhibition, Baseman’s life and “pervasive art” are intertwined. Each “room” features a different theme that expresses one facet of personal and communal life such as creativity, play, inspiration, and celebration.
- Prior to reaching the main exhibition gallery space, Baseman’s Studio is the visitor’s initial encounter with Gary’s creative process, featuring a sample of his works in progress and the artist’s favorite music playing over speakers. The track list includes songs by Elvis Costello and The Velvet Underground, among others. All who enter the studio will be encouraged to use the art supplies, sketchbooks, and drafting tables to make drawings of their own.
- The Living Room welcomes visitors, recalling Baseman’s youth, and includes numerous family photos and artwork from many points in his career that provide insight into Baseman’s world.
- The Dining Room focuses on feasts and holidays. The dining table and china cabinet belonged to his late parents, and will be set to “entertain in style” with Baseman’s mother’s crystal decanter and filled with Baseman’s father’s signature symbol of hospitality, a beverage made by blending cherry juice and kaluha.
- The Hallway is dedicated to the theme of journeys. The joys of travel are celebrated as Baseman’s Toby character is shown posing at very familiar landmarks worldwide.
- The Study is where Baseman’s memory and heritage is explored in more depth, with photographs from his parents’ early years and his own recent trip to the Eastern European villages where they were born and where relatives were murdered by the Nazis.
- The Office will show some editorial commissions for publications such as The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, and LA Weekly, plus some of the artist’s collections of commercial display items, including advertising mascots, mannequins, and dolls’ heads.
- The Den will display items from Baseman’s animated TV series Teacher’s Pet, which aired on ABC/Disney approximately 10 years ago and was made into a feature film in 2004. Fans of the show will enjoy the chance to view Teacher’s Pet characters in sketches, paintings, clay models, and select scenes on video monitors. Baseman’s design for the board game Cranium and many miniature vinyl figurines, including Dumb Luck, ChouChou, and HotChaChaCha.
- The Bedroom will have Baseman’s parents’ bedroom furniture (plus the quirky bureau-top assemblage of “found objects” in a large ashtray, including a loose wheel from a twin bed!) and celebrates his longtime fascination with Halloween and monsters.
- The Backyard will have examples of Baseman’s performance pieces, such as La Noche de la Fusión (2009) and Giggle and Pop! (2010). Masks, props, costumes, piñatas will be on view, as will the monumental shrine-like piece The Enlightened Chou.