Cartoons into art

Pace GalleryWhen I saw the Pace Gallery were having an exhibition exploring the influence of the cartoon on contemporary art, titled Everything falls Faster than an Anvil, my mind immediately filled with images. Astro Boy, the boy robot with rockets in his boots, the creation of manga genius Osamu Tezuka; Totoro, the irresistibly cuddly wood spirit from My Neighbour Totoro, the masterpiece of Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, and much more. I was keen to see all that translated into contemporary art. But it just shows how having a certain mindset can send you down the wrong path, because what did I find?

I’d been looking in the wrong direction. I should have turned my attention across the Atlantic, to Popeye (who makes it into to exhibition courtesy of Torbjørn Rødland) and that mouse. And I should have paid more attention to the title. Apparently it comes from O’Donnell’s Laws of Cartoon Motion which state that in ‘cartoon physics’, a falling anvil will always land directly upon a character’s head, regardless of the time gap between the body and the anvil’s respective drop. Oh. That kind of cartoon. The penny (and the anvil) dropped.

Torbjørn Rødland

But not to worry. I did find one Japanese artist. And with the likes of Claes Oldenburg to see, I’m not complaining. It’s a great show, which does what it says on the tin, showing artists using the aesthetics and symbolism of cartoons to create something more profound and challenging. There’s some great stuff so I’m happy to share it with you.

Pace Gallery

Here’s the one Japanese artist, Yoshitomo Nara, who comes from Aomori in North East Japan (where the apples come from). As you’d expect, his work is the closest to what I had originally expected to see, focusing on cute but sinister characters with a disconcerting emotional intensity. The character the girl is writing is inochi which means life.

Yoshitomo Nara - Anima

There are two Claes Oldenburg sculptures, one using the iconic mouse ears.

Claes Oldenburg - Geometric Mouse, Scale B (red)

The other is a more typically Oldenburg: Fag End Study.

Claes Oldenburg - Fagend Study - Half Scale

Sticking with three dimensions, I liked Catharine Ahearn’s Incredible Hulk.

Catharine Ahearn - Incredible Hulk

I hadn’t come across John Wesley before, but liked the Lichtenstein-esque feel of his Wimpey’s Drive.

John Wesley - Wimpey's Drive

And I love the complexity behind the superficial simplicity of Yoan Mudry’s Transitional Monologue.

Yoan Mudry - Transitional Monologue

It’s positioned next to Peter Wächtler’s metal organ pipes.

Peter Wachtler

In the same room is Alistair Frost’s Lock in your answer! There’s no going back once you’re on to the complimentary house wine. Which also leads to…

Alistair Frost

By the way, the walls aren’t painted like that by accident – it’s a mural by Carl Ostendarp titled Fruit and Icebergs.

The exhibition, which is curated by Chewday, is at the Pace Gallery, 6-10 Lexington St in Soho and continues until 18th June. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 6 pm.

10 thoughts on “Cartoons into art

  1. Glad you explained the very strong pink, but it is surprising how much of the other work really fits well with it. Do you know if Carl Ostendarp saw the other pieces before he painted the mural?

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