Can a Weirdo Illustration Show Bridge the Gap Between Long Beach and L.A.'s Art Scenes?
Art by Jay Torres/courtesy Dave van Patten
Just ask the hipsters traipsing through Little Tokyo – L.A. is a great city to drink a beer, go to an art opening and post the evidence on Instagram (this writer is guilty and don’t think she doesn’t know that).
But where do you go when you want to expand your art horizons? If you’re into illustration — and weird art — Dave van Patten wants you to come to Long Beach.
The L.A.-/Long Beach–based, artist whose work takes inspiration from sources such as 1960s surrealism and “modern societal absurdity” (as his bio states), decided to get a group of talented illustrators together for a humor-themed show.
“HaHa Cloud Machine: A Humor-Themed Illustration Show” features familiar scenes made grotesque, fantastical creatures from another world and vignettes that seem like the product of an acid trip. The objective: to highlight “weirdo surrealism and macabre” in a fun environment. The opening will feature a set by DJ Chris Ziegler of L.A. Record (also an L.A. Weekly contributor).
“Despite the dark reality cloud that covers the world, the medicinal effect of taking ourselves less seriously through weirdo art is essential,” Van Patten says in an email.
Artists in the show include Daniel Johnston, Creep, Matt Furie, James Carey, Penelope Gazin, Jeff McMillan, Lara Lee Meintjes, Lara Odell, Charlyne Yi and more. Except for Johnston and Craig Gleason, the artists in the show all hail from L.A. or Long Beach.
Before curating this show, Van Patten knew many of these artists through his own practice — others he reached out to after “geeking out on their work for years.”
Art by James Carey
“This is an attempt to bring a killer lineup of illustrators all together and just see what happens,” writes Van Patten. “Constantly working alone in the studio as an illustrator can be depressing sometimes, so this is an attempt to build up the illustrator community, and hopefully encourage collaboration between some of these artists.”
Visitors can expect to see a mix of old and new work, including a few special pieces. Daniel Johnston contributed “a handful of his drawings” from his “one-and-only graphic novel,” Space Ducks: An Infinite Comic Book of Musical Greatness. Matt Furie will be showing a series of drawings from his upcoming coloring book.
For Van Patten, hosting the show in Long Beach was important because he wants to make sure there’s a space for artists not shown in museums. While Long Beach art establishments like the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) definitely offer a space for contemporary art, it’s unlikely you’d find something like the trippy style of Jay Torres there. MADE by Millworks makes sense as a venue for this show since the store focuses on local goods — more than 150 of them, to be exact.
“One of the main problems Long Beach has is that there are a bunch of talented artists but very few cool venues for exhibits,” writes Van Patten. “MADE by Millworks is a boutique in the front but has a huge exhibition area in the back that I thought would be perfect for this type of show. Rather than booking one of the many cool warehouse galleries in Los Angeles, [I] thought it would be cool to highlight Long Beach.”
Another goal Van Patten kept in mind was to encourage L.A. art lovers to visit an area different from their usual art haunts.
Art by Daniel Johnston
“Unfortunately there is such a divide between Los Angeles and Long Beach, and I would like to bridge that gap.”
Anyone into genres like pop surrealism, comic book art, satirical art and the like can surely find something to love in “HaHa Cloud Machine.” Or at the very least they can find out about an illustrator they might not have known before (or at least not by name).
“One friend referred to this show as a 'mini Coachella for indie illustrators,' Van Patten says. "I think that description is appropriate.”
“HaHa Cloud Machine,” MADE by Millworks, 236 Pine St., Long Beach; opens Sat., March 18, 7-10 p.m., runs through April 30.
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