New Fabulists Bring Painterly Eye to Twisted Fairytale Narratives

By , Columnist
When Dan Clowes wrote his withering black comedy Art School Confidential five years ago, the comic book auteur underscored his annoyance that success in academic circles relied largely on an artist's ability to spout high concept bullshit that would "explicate" the work in question. Actual drawing skills? Not important.

But the reign of video art, multi-media work and high-concept installations has been eroded in recen years by gifted illustrators who, having mastered the rendering of figure, face, and landscape, now direct their talents toward twisted narrative visions that force viewers to wonder "What happens next?"

Foremost among these New Fabulists is Seattle artist Rose Camille Garcia. Drawing on her Orange County childhood near Disneyland, she created nightmarish anti-fairytales in her recent "Snow White and the Black Lagoon" exhibition, which pictures the princess as an irritable shrew surrounded by really grumpy dwarves and freaked out forest creatures.

Then there's the king of grinning baby devils and saucer-eyed vixens: Gary Baseman. A popular draw on the international "low brow" circuit, Baseman juggles toy design and animation with darkly fantastical paintings. In this spring's New York City show, "Walking Through Walls," Baseman expanded on his repertoire of creepy humanoid characters to include supernatural "Golem" figures drawn from Jewish folklore.

genesisofdreamreality_660.jpgImage courtesy Jonathan Levine Gallery

In Los Angeles, the Artists Who Can Actually Draw movement gets a boost Sunday [May 15] when Pasadena Museum of California Art presents its "Clayton Brothers: Inside Out " exhibition. The show highlights Rob and Christsian Clayton's gift for re-configuring mundane moments into densely tangled day-glo tableaux. Their Wishy Washy shed, for example, documents visits to the local loner-infested Laundromat.

The brothers' "Patient" series, inspired by a motorcycle accident outside their studio, features discombobulated characters in various states of psychedelic disarray.

Referring to their friends Garcia and Baseman, along with other peers, Christian Clayton says "We all sort of follow the same train of thought. In school it seemed like illustration and fine art were separate worlds. Why are they separate? Why can't a good (commercial) commission be a notable thing that you can take credit for in the same way you would for a great painting?"

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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