Can Science Be Cute?
Works by Hine Mizushima for Supahcute Science Fair at Leanna Lin's Wonderland.
Jared Andrew Schorr's petrie dishes hang on a wall inside Eagle Rock boutique Leanna Lin's Wonderland. The small cases contain colorful, paper cut patterns. There is a dish filled with multi-colored dots, another with rainbow layers of lacy patterns. Altogether, there are five Cute Cultures, based on patterns of different varieties of mold.
The title of the work holds a double meaning. In "Supahcute Science Fair," everything is inspired by science. Cute, however, is at the core of work by artists like Schorr, and "cute culture" is what the blog behind the event is about.
Hana Kim launched Supahcute in 2008. Her earliest posts were short updates about blind box toys, James Jean's final cover for the comic book series Fables, and Kanye West's collaboration with Takashi Murakami. Since then, she has championed a slew of up-and-comers whose aesthetics are decidedly adorable. From monster-makers to illustrators, Kim has an eye for spotting people who share a love of unusual characters, fun color choices and whimsical scenes.
Dragonwinged Fairybug 2 by Shing Yin Khor
Kim started Supahcute to create the kind of blog she wanted to read. "There were a couple of kawaii blogs out there," she says, using the Japanese word for cute that has come to describe stationary icons like Hello Kitty. "I don't really connect with the whole kawaii lifestyle," she says. "I wanted to share cute things that might not be traditionally cute. I like the stuff that's kind of creepy cute, cute monsters and things like that."
She is covering an often-overlooked style of art and design. "I feel like there is this cute ghetto," says Kim. "If it's cute, it doesn't see as legitimate." Los Angeles, though is a little different. It's a city known for folks like Mark Ryden, Gary Baseman, Elizabeth McGrath and others who have merged endearing images with subversive elements. While "creepy cute" may be an integral part of Los Angeles' contribution to the art world, it has global appeal. Kim's journey began with locally at galleries like GR2, but her reach has extended beyond the city. "I realized that there's an audience all over the world that wants to share in it too," she says.
Artists reach out to Kim for exposure. In fact, the response was so overwhelming that she had to post a notice that she was no longer seeking submissions. Sometimes, though, a blind email catches her eye. That's how Kim found TeslaCake, who is featured in "Science Fair."
"Science Fair" is Supahcute's fourth art show at Leanna Lin's Wonderland. The two began collaborating in 2012, when Kim put together "Supahcute Dream Team Show." They have similar interests in art and a design.
Leanna Lin Fong, the shop's proprietor, previously worked in fashion. Her sensibilities lean towards illustration, as well as graphic and product design. Inside the storefront, there's an assortment of vintage home goods mixed with jewelry, t-shirts and other odds and ends. Fong refers to the "Wonderland lifestyle," something that's reflected throughout the store. It's a place as fun for adults as it is for kids. That's part of the goal of "Science Fair" as well. The two wanted to build an art show that even the little ones could enjoy.
Kim says that "Science Fair" was inspired by a conversation she had with her boyfriend, who teaches first grade. She thought it would be great to curate a show inspired by science, particularly since she works with artists with interests in that area. Kim gave the artists a few instructions. Primarily, the works had to appeal to kids. "It doesn't have to state a science fact," she says, "but I did want it to get the viewer to start thinking about science."
The team behind "Science Fair" delivered. From Michael Fleming's Laboratory Glassware Chart to Lyla Warren's Space Oddity: A Tribute to Chris Hadfield, the works explored science as fun, colorful and, of course, cute.
Many of the pieces take an imaginative approach, blending science and fantasy. Genevieve Santos, herself a fan of sci-fi shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who, contributed whimsical drawings on black paper that were inspired by astronaut Chris Hadfield's descriptions of space, along with NASA images. Shing Ying Khor presented her "fairybug" characters - who resemble a range of real flying bugs - as small paintings done in the style of old fashioned illustrations. Vanessa Ramirez presented her small, sculpted monsters in jars, surrounded by their habitats and ready for study.
The show certainly caught the eye of parents and children who attended Saturday night's opening party. Kids scurried around the store before gathering in front of the works. Less than two hours into the opening, plenty of the gallery tags were marked with red dots that scream "sold." Science was a hit for the cute art crowd.
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