Friday, April 26, 2013

The Door is Always Open

Last night my wife and I attended the opening of Gary Baseman's exhibition, "The Door is Always Open," at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.


I've been following what he's been doing for years, having been first introduced to his work when his was primarily doing commercial illustration for hire, and I've been consistently amazed by what he's done over the years.

This show "explores the influences of Baseman’s Jewish family heritage and American popular culture on his exuberant, boundary-defying art" and centers around his childhood home, which he recreated in the exhibit space by bringing in furniture and furnishings from his parents' home – as well as countless family photos and other items. The result? It's Gary Baseman's upbringing, in three dimensions: we see the dinner table set for Shabbat, featuring his little Magi figurines; we look at photos of his family's Passover seders and his bar mitzvah next to paintings of his "magical gefilte fish" and other contemporary subjects; we sit on his old velvety couch underneath a chandelier he fashioned in the shape of his "happy idiot" snowman.

 So yeah, there's a lot to see – and I highly recommend it to anyone who's able to come.

But what I really wanted to write about was how inspiring it is to see an artist like Gary Baseman embracing his tradition and upbringing, and seeing it come through so strongly in his work. The characters, the imagery, the themes and the stories all have roots in the his family history – and the history of the Jewish people. Girl wearing tefillin? Check.

My work is, of course, heavily influenced by my Judaism, so I am particularly affected when I see someone else drawing from the same well to create work that is so unique, so beautiful, so affecting... so powerful.

The night ended with a dedication of the "house" – complete with a custom mezuzah which he designed. How's that for a pervasive pop culture art happening in La La Land? The most well-attended mezuzah hanging I've ever been to.

 Mazal tov, Gary – and yasher koach.

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