Boys and girls as young as five stood in line alongside bespectacled, nearly middle-aged men on a chilly Friday night to pay tribute to an icon and hero: Prince Adam of Eternia, more popularly known as He-Man.
The line that would eventually wrap around the corner began at the entrance of Gallery 1988 where curator Jensen Karp and toy company Mattel celebrated the opening night of “Under The Influence: He-Man and The Masters of the Universe” art show and sale.
The gallery features the work of 100 emerging contemporary artists such as Skinner, Van Saro, Andrew Wilson, Johnny Sampson, Ruben Martinez, Jude Buffum and Jeaux Janovsky. The artists contributed a number of original works in oil, pastel, graffiti and other media that were influenced by the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon and toy line.
“The fact that we're taking toys so serious at this art show is not surprising,” said Karp, who is also co-owner of the gallery. “Nineteen eighty-eight is the feeling of the gallery as we're very focused on pop culture. That was a big year for everything here in L.A. Kirk Gibson and the Dodgers won the World Series, the Lakers also won, Gretzky came to the Kings and NWA released 'Straight Outta Compton.'”
Every artist involved grew up with the characters and feels indebted to the franchise. “He-Man was a big part of my childhood,” said animator Jeaux Janovsky who shared gallery space with his girlfriend, artist Cristina Paulos. “My elementary school pals and I collected all the toys and would spend hours making up our own He-Man adventures on the schoolyard. It's no wonder I stumbled into animation!”
Van Saro created graffiti pieces inspired by the villains Skeletor, Beast Man and Tri-Klops. “The bad guys are always the best characters,” said Saro, who began drawing at the same age he watched the show. “My favorite part of my piece was redesigning the characters in my own flavor.”
The show is the fourth in Karp's annual “Under The Influence” series, with a fifth already in the works. Previous exhibits focused on the influence of pop culture pioneers Walt Disney, Stan Lee and The Beastie Boys. Karp, who has also collaborated with video game developer Capcom, worked with Mattel last year for Hot Wheels' 40th anniversary.
“Everybody seems to cling to what we remember from as children,” said Karp as a young boy in a Voltron t-shirt snapped a photo of his father who posed in front of a large mural of Battle Cat. “That's what this show is all about. It's not only saying that we love what the past was about but it's also saying that it helped our creativity grow.”
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