When artist Chet Zar was offered the chance to curate a show for CoproGallery last year, he brought together his friends from the special effects world with a variety of other artists for a sculpture show.
"You don't see a lot of sculpture shows," he says.
Titled "Conjoined," the show broke attendance records at the Bergamot Station gallery. Like massive Hollywood hits, Zar's event spawned a sequel, the cheekily titled "Conjoined II in 3D: The Sequel", which opened Saturday night and runs through February 11.
Zar's own background is in special effects make-up. He started working in the film industry right after high school and did that for, he estimates, twenty years. He's worked on projects for the band Tool as well as on movies like Planet of the Apes and Fantastic Four.
"Through the years, I was amazed of the artistry in the effects business," says Zar. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, we'd bust our asses and create these amazing pieces of art work for movies that just ended up being horrible, or they cut it out of the movie and you spent six months pouring your heart into something."
It seems almost perfect, then, that the night's big hit was created by special effects make-up artist Kevin Kirkpatrick. Titled Beavis & Butthead in Real Life, the busts depict the cartoon duo in a form so lifelike that they're unnerving.
"I always wanted to see Beavis and Butt-head in real life," says Kirkpatrick. "I grew up with Beavis and Butt-head when I was a kid and now that they're back. I guess it's an homage to Mike Judge and his success."
Photos of the sculptures went viral last week, and have been mentioned by everyone from Perez Hilton to Reuters. Still, this is something you need to see in person. The details, including eyebrows and eyelashes made from "100% human hair" by artist Nicole Michaud, put this piece over the top.
"In the make-up effects industry, it's all about realism," says Zar. "When we do creatures, we sculpt it to show on a big screen and look real."
He adds, "I think stuff in there reflects that."
But it wasn't just the hyperreal pieces, which included Thomas Kuebler's sculpture of the late sideshow performer Schlitzie, that captivated the audience. Mechanical works, like Cascade by Mark Setrakian, hypnotized, while a remarkable bronze piece, The Lookout by David Simon, drew many stares.
In fact, not all of the contributions to "Conjoined II" were sculptures. Zar himself had a few paintings in the show, as did L.A.-based artist Zoetica Ebb.
Ebb contributed two oil on wood pieces, Cephalotus Geminus and Cypripedium Lingua. They are are part of a series she is creating based on the eighth chapter of the novel À Rebours (known in English as Against Nature).
"The chapter describes flowers that exist in nature that look extremely artificial," says Ebb. "I was really inspired by this chapter and decided to take it a step further and make them look alien, but at the same time add some human anatomy."
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Ebb says that she did keep the 3D nature of the show in mind as she painted, which presented its own challenges.
"There's no background, so you have to imagine that this piece is floating in a space made of wood," she explains.
With a mix of whimsical and disturbing elements, one thing was obvious throughout the night: unlike many sequels, "Conjoined II" did not disappoint.