Gallery1988 in LA is currently showing some of the hippest and cutting-edge interpretations of cult films in their latest exhibition: “Crazy 4 Cult: This time its personal”. Over 100 up and coming artists have produced works for the show that has been a massive success and continues until September 12th.
At the Opening Party on August 22nd Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier (who opened the first ‘Crazy 4 Cult’ exhibition last year) hosted the show. Guests were queuing around the corner and down the street for the first glimpse of this year’s works.
Jensen Karp is the co-owner of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Gallery 1988, and director of the LA gallery which has been open for four and a half years. His business partner is Katie Cromwell and she directs the SF gallery, which has been open for about eighteen months. Jensen took some time out from his hectic schedule to answer some questions about the show including how Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier came to be involved and how Samuel L Jackson reacted to a Pulp Fiction picture.
AC: This exhibition is now in it’s second year – what was the original inspiration for the Crazy 4 Cult collection?
I’m a huge film buff, and all my favorite movies fall into the category of “Cult.” And I found myself relating to a lot of artists about these movies in casual conversations, and even finding out that a lot of artists watch movies in the background when they are painting. One artist actually listens to DVD commentaries while he paints. So, we put 2 and 2 together and realized that these movies are a pretty large source of inspiration for the artists we work with, especially in the 20-30 age range, so it seemed like a no-brainer for us. It’s really a bit of a self serving show for me, cause I always hoped to see great Big Lebowski or Office Space work, and I was in the position to make it happen. So it happened. And I’m lucky people dig it.
AC: Did you anticipate the massive response that you have had? Have you had more people through the door than last year?
I expected people to be interested, but not quite 3 blocks of a line waiting to get in excited. Last year’s show we had about 2000 people come to the opening reception, this year we estimate 2500, so the buzz is building, and we expect a lot more coming through the next for the 2009 installment.
AC: Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier were part of your opening event this year and last year – how did they get involved?
Scott was a frequenter of the LA gallery, always buying cool emerging art and I had always been a fan of his films with Kevin. And when the idea for Crazy 4 Cult first came up, I thought how cool it would be to involve Scott and Kevin since they #1 were always really nice to us, #2 big cult icons. Scott and Kevin loved the idea, and Kevin still jokes that it’s the best way to commission an artist to paint your face without seeming like a douche bag. Kevin and Scott always say that as soon as they see every piece in the show, they get antsy for the next year, so it’s GREAT to have two incredibly nice and humble people that want to be involved every year. They really have been an incredible force on our gallery.
AC: How did you commission the artists to do the work and did you provide a list of cult films?
These artists are, in the most part, people we’ve worked with over the last 4 1/2 years, so at this point they are in for the ride. A show as fun as Crazy 4 Cult isn’t hard to book, but each artist is given a list of films they can work with, and we’ve been a bit lenient in the past. As long as it’s a cult movie, we’re cool with it. But in 2009, I think we’re gonna be a little more strict. Cult movies aren’t always easy to define, as they not only mean movies that didn’t do well a first, but gathered an audience over time, but it’s also movies that have developed new fan bases over the years, beyond the one it was originally created to involve. So movies like Wizard of Oz become cult, thanks to it’s Pink Floyd tie-in or its gay afterlife. It’s a slippery slope.
AC: Are there many more artists this year?
Yes, last year we had about 60 artists, this year about 100.
AC: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists on how they could contribute to next year’s exhibition?
Yeah, just shoot us an email with 3 to 4 jpegs of your work or a link to a website that displays your work. And we are not looking for movie themed art. We’re looking for incredible artists, who mostly have never depicted movie references in their work. That’s what makes us different than other shows in our genre. We look for talented gallery artists, not fan art, so keep that in mind.
AC: What pieces have caused the biggest stir this year?
I think the Sean Clarity piece of Data from Goonies, called “Buffer Overflow” was a big hit. And Brandon Bird’s depiction of a young child dressed a Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia was a crowd favorite. I also love Ryan Sanchez’s Violet from Willy Wonka. I mean, it was a great show and everybody really brought their own vision to the theme.
AC: The competition to name all the stars in the Andrew Wilson poster is a great idea. Do you have any hints for it and when is the closing date?
The contest has officially closed now and we did have some people that got close to, or actually did get, 100%. We’ll pick the winner sometime this next week. The advice I have is, if you didn’t know what Wet Hot American Summer was, you probably didn’t win.
AC: The ‘surprise poster’ you made for 2009 shows ‘Weird Al’ Jankovic – is he really going to be involved next year? What will he be doing and how did you manage to persuade him?
Weird Al will be involved next year, yes. I’ve been working on getting him to participate for the past 2 years, so finally get the A-OK to promote was one of the best feelings I’ve had so far at 1988. We’re still a little iffy on exactly what he’s doing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of UHF, but look for him at the opening, and maybe a way to celebrate the great movie at such a milestone during the month as well. Al’s manager, Jay Levey, who was also the writer/director and guy who played Ghandi in the movie, and I have been chatting over the phone for quite some time, and he really did think Al would love the concept. And guess what? Al loved it. So it’s now all history, and gonna be a lot of fun in 2009.
AC: What are you favourite stories from the exhibition so far?
Last year we had Samuel L. Jackson walk in, which was awesome. He didn’t notice himself on the poster we had made (he was shown in his Pulp Fiction garb), so I had to point it out to him. He was pretty stoked. It’s always cool when people who are depicted in the pieces walk in, like James Duvall, who played Frank the Bunny in Donnie Darko came this year, as did Wil Wheaton who was in a Stand By Me/Clerks hybrid painting. Those are always my favorite stories.
AC: How does this exhibition fit in with the Gallery 1988’s overall yearly plan – is it one of your bigger exhibits?
This is actually our biggest show ever, and we obviously are gonna keep it annual, so it has become a mainstay on the schedule. Also, in 2010, we might be expanding the brand into a few shows a year, just with a little different concepts for each one (and maybe different locations).
AC: What’s next for Gallery 1988 and how long will it take you to dismantle this exhibit and get ready for the next one?
We debut a new show every 3 weeks basically, so we run like this all year long. You can see all that at gallery1988.com. We open a solo show from artist Travis Lampe, who is one of my personal favorites, in 2 weeks and we have a HUGE Beastie Boys tribute, which they will be involved in, in Jan of 2009.
7020 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90038. USA