In a way, it's hard to believe that the comic strip Peanuts dates back to the 1950s. The characters are still likable, the plot lines relatable (oh, to be young) and the characters instantly recognizable.
And like any iconic piece of art, Peanuts continues to influence and inform the work of many illustrators, designers and artists. To celebrate the comic strip's legacy, “The Peanut Gallery” gathers the work of creative minds putting their own spin on the famous characters. Curated by Aristotle Acevedo, Sam Grinberg and Eduardo Cordova, the show offers viewers a look at diverse interpretations ranging from adorable to unsettling.
What began as a “throwaway suggestion,” as Grinberg puts it, became a bona fide art show. Grinberg knew Acevedo through making fliers for his zine shows at Meltdown Comics. One day they stood surveying the space and thought, why not put together a show based around something or someone everyone knows? Like, you know, Charlie Brown.
They enlisted the help of Cordova to bring it all together. The trio started feverishly sending emails to artists, illustrators and cartoonists they admired (or already knew) and were floored by the response.
“It just kind of prompted us to be like, 'Let’s keep asking, let’s keep asking,'” Cordova says. “What’s the worst thing that could happen? They’ll say no.”
Instead, many of them said yes. “The Peanut Gallery” features more than 100 artists from around the world, emphasizing the popularity of Peanuts in various countries. Actually, Grinberg didn’t realize he was reaching out to international artists at first.
“Instagram is such a good tool — that’s where I found maybe 50 percent of the artists, just artists that I follow and really admire,” Grinberg says. “And I would ask them to be in it and then realize, wait a minute, I just asked someone that lives in Australia.”
But the group didn’t just reach out exclusively to Peanuts lovers. As Grinberg puts it, part of the fun was finding artists who didn’t identify as Peanuts fanatics and who also used a markedly different aesthetic from the well-known comic.
Cordova emphasizes the way that people still feel a sense of empathy for Charlie Brown, who frequently finds himself in unfortunate situations. There’s room for everyone’s feelings of melancholy, whether they related to “those feelings of lovelorn or just even the simple thing of him not being able to kick the football ever,” says Cordova. He remembers first seeing Peanuts in fifth grade when he bought a collection of Peanuts books during a Scholastic book fair.
The show includes work from Nick Gazin (the artist behind Run the Jewels’ logo), Josh Freydkis (known for his work in publications like The New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek), Rachel Dukes (comic artist for Boom Studios) and many more.
“The goal of this was: I don’t want pieces in this show that look like it’s just a comic ripped out of a Charlie Brown page,” Grinberg says. “I asked artists … that you wouldn’t associate Charlie Brown with. That’s why it’s going to be extremely diverse. There’s artists from like, everywhere — Pixar and Disney and cartoonists and comic book artists. It should be, like, really crazy renditions.”
The pieces range from “wholesome” to “oh my God why would you do that, Charlie Brown?” as Grinberg puts it. Cordova also attests to this unique range.
“There’s one piece that looks like the artist had taken some acid before he did the piece,” Cordova says. “Which is great because, like I said, we’re not trying to limit anyone to any one interpretation of what they want to do with this.”
“The Peanut Gallery,” Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; opens Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and runs for approximately one week.