Art Review: Gary Baseman – The Door is Always Open – Skirball

Gary Baseman

The Door is Always Open

Did you ever question Gary Baseman’s work? Were his strokes too thick? Are the characters too cartoonish? Did the absence of a fine controlled line thwart your viewpoint of his basic schooling? Is he too low brow? Was Cranium too commercial? Was it his multiple Emmy Awards? Did he talk your ear off?

After a slow walk through of The Door is Always Open at the Skirball, you’ll see a comprehensive execution of a concept that revolves around family, history and memories. Regardless of what you might have thought about him or his work, from here, like Monopoly, go back to Go. Gary Baseman is a legend.

Yes, his strokes are thick and perhaps at this point, quite economical. His volume of works filling in the self designed wallpapered rooms depicting his childhood home is captivating. It’s a barrage that seems like it’ll never end. Yes, they can become a blur, but that’s ok. Whether you gravitate towards one piece or you remember a few things about a few pieces, seeing the span of work tells his story. The details in the execution of the exhibition layout are equally amazing.

The characters are cartoonish. It’s his vision and life’s work. This isn’t him jumping on a bandwagon. He’s helped create it. He’s been working and developing his style for a generation. Most of us surround ourselves with toys from at best, the last few decades. Many of us collect from the last few years. Baseman displays his collection of toys and statues from the 1930s. A completely different reference point.

Controlled fine lines? It’s there, and he can do it. In fact, some pieces from 1982 show that he has or had technique and patience. Would he say, “That was so 1982.” Perhaps he’s over it.

Low brow is just a title, and whether if he is or isn’t shouldn’t matter at this point. If he is, and he illustrates a deep upbringing through an exhibition, then it’s low brow at it’s finest. He prefers “Pop Surrealism”.

Cranium? Perhaps it is commercial, but it’s a vehicle that most artists wouldn’t deny. It’s a fun game and it brings families and friends together, which fits into his overall art theme. The same can be said with his multiple Emmy award winning project, Teacher’s Pet – and you can’t shoot photos in that room.

Yes, Baseman has talked my ear off and with that, is his passion. His latest conversation was about his Jewish family history, Concentration Camps and it’s relationship to this exhibition at the Skirball.

Photo set by Dean Gojobori

1 Comment

  1. Donna B
    26 April 13, 1:19pm

    A good (but limited in range) comic illustrator. Too bad he cannot write a comic or animation or story that his characters can be in. Just lots of illustrations to a story that does not exist. Imagine Walt Disney just drawing Mickey and Donald for 20, 30 years – no comics, no cartoons…just lots of drawings.
    Most artists evolve, Basemen still keeps cranking out his cute-ish, strange, drippy-filled characters year after year.

Leave a Reply