Dumb Luck: The Art of Gary Baseman-Gary Baseman, Pao & Paws

  • Title: Dumb Luck: The Art of Gary Baseman
  • Author: Gary Baseman, Pao & Paws
  • Released: 2004-05-01
  • Language:
  • Pages: 336
  • ISBN: 0811844234
  • ISBN13: 978-0811844239
  • ASIN: 0811844234


From Publishers Weekly Eradicating the boundary between sick and silly, Baseman’s paintings and illustrations inhabit a world of cute-and-cuddly depravity. Populated by goofy, wide-eyed dogs, winking devils and decapitated clowns, each work is a self-contained narrative of cartoon mayhem, each character a collision of the adorable and the grotesque. Even Baseman’s more mainstream work, including the designs for the popular "Cranium" board game and his Emmy Award-winning animated series, Teacher’s Pet, engender a freak-show fascination, a lingering hint of the Grand Guignol. That the few (and refreshingly brief) essays sprinkled throughout this massive monograph should belabor these less-than-subtle contrasts ad nauseam is hardly surprising. Even the artist himself avers that his work is about "smudging the line between genius and stupidity beyond recognition." After all, since the visual language of cartoons is his primary tool, simple oppositions and immediate, gruesome gags are a prerequisite. This is not to imply that Baseman’s work is trite or disposable. Although he wears his influences on his sleeve, serving up healthy portions of Looney Tunes, underground comix, Charles Addams and Red Grooms, these reference points lend each image an eerie familiarity. His characters (not to mention the blazing primary colors in his compositions) are vivid, outlandish and genuinely funny. A cheerful, peg-legged bunny holding a rabbit-foot keychain is hilarious by any standard. And therein lies this volume’s greatest virtue: the text is downright minimal, leaving ample room for hundreds of large, richly colored illustrations. In this case, each picture is truly worth a thousand words.
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From Baseman is an acclaimed gallery artist and a successful illustrator. His distinctively off-kilter work is familiar to readers of the New Yorker and many other mainstream publications, and his profile was significantly raised a few years ago when he created the animated kids' show Teacher's Pet. The disparate, intertwined facets of the prolific Baseman are all on view in this bountiful collection. The wildly loopy paintings and drawings--influenced by Warner Brothers cartoons, vintage comic strips, Hieronymus Bosch, Day of the Dead artifacts, and Japanese pop art--display obsessively recurring figures: crimson cats with phallic noses, cuddly devils, spiral-necked hounds, fez-sporting skeletons, and characters that are simply unrecognizable or indescribable. Their visceral impact is heightened by Baseman's vivid, sometimes jarring colors and bold, simple designs. The overall effect veers from cuddly to off-putting, usually within the same work. Somewhat creepy and frequently sexual, Baseman's quirky critters are ultimately harmless and oddly inviting. This dazzling volume attests to Baseman's success at breaking boundaries between fine art and mass media. Gordon Flagg
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