Tim Burton Unleashed: Art Show Pictures Mutants, Aliens and Johnny Depp

By , Columnist

Images courtesy The Art of Tim Burton

When I chatted with Helena Bonham Carter last year about her swell-headed portrayal of the Red Queen in Tim Burton's surreal Alice in Wonderland, the petite Brit actress with the tossed-salad hairdo insisted that the film's director and father of her two children was not nearly as weird as his movies would have you believe.

"Tim's actually a quite sane person who doesn't like combs, and me too," Carter chirped over a cup of tea. "People would be surprised at how banal we are. We watch [English soap opera] EastEnders on the telly. We have quite a normal existence."

To judge from the wonderfully wicked artworks showcased at Los Angeles County Museum of  Art's "Tim Burton" exhibition, opening Sunday, domesticity has hardly reigned in the fantasy auteur's wild imagination. The show presents more than 700 drawings, paintings, storyboards and puppets. Created primarily for such Burton movies as BatmanSweeney Todd, and Edward Scissorhands, the pieces add up to a mind-melting gallery of aliens, creepy fat boys, bug-eyed snakes and character sketches inspired by Burton's favorite actor Johnny Depp.

Tim Burton Red Queen.jpgOriginally staged by MoMA in New York, where it drew 800,000 patrons to become the third-most popular exhibition in the museum's history, the Burton show was assembled by MoMA's Film Department Curator Ron Magliozzi.  "The idea of doing a Tim Burton exhibition came up around the time that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came out," he says. "When we approached Tim in 2007, we learned he had long harbored a desire to have some of this work that people had never seen exhibited in a museum." 

Magliozzi traveled to Burton's London headquarters to pore through personal archives packed with  more than 10,000 artifacts. "Tim is constantly sketching, and he saved all that stuff going back to junior high school sketchpads. If he made a sketch he made on a cocktail napkin, we'll show you the cocktail napkin. 'Process art' is important in showing Burton's original intention and giving people an insight into the way he creates."

Most of the images featured in the Los Angeles retrospective can also be found in The Art of Tim Burton, a 434-page  picture book that compiles the filmmaker's visual output dating back to his teen years in Burbank, California.

"Tim Burton" runs at LACMA from May 29 through October 31.

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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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