Review: ‘Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art’

Gallery 88's collection of pop culture-themed art features works from Shepard Fairey and Reuben Rude.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

This may be the most defensible statement I’ve ever made in print, but Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art is a book. I like books. In fact I have read many a book. But I am not a critic of books. The one thing you should be able to expect of any critic is that they’re more familiar with their chosen medium than the average reader. And while books and I frequently have brief, passionate affairs, they are but tawdry trysts compared to my lifelong marriage to film, or my long-term adultery with videogames.

It is, however, a book without many words, which makes my job today a little easier also impossibly annoying since I can’t talk about style, plot or character development or anything with which I am intimately familiar. Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art is a collection of art from Los Angeles’s Gallery 88, which presents an overview of pop culture-themed pieces from a variety of disparate artists like Shepard Fairey, Steve Purcell and Reuben Rude. The book is loosely ordered by influence: there is a section devoted to paintings inspired by The Shining, for instance, and another to The Big Lebowski, and another inspired by the works of Kevin Smith, and so on. Mr. Smith contributes an introduction to the collection, which manages to shoehorn in a gay joke for no particular reason (other than the fact that he’s Kevin Smith, obviously). His enthusiasm for Gallery 88 is real; his actual statement feels little like pandering to his target audience.

I find myself befuddled by art books, which isn’t to say that I don’t ‘get’ them. Art is pretty, ergo let’s look at art. But as a casual sketch artist at best I don’t have the personal motivation to pour over every single image long enough to justify actually owning this book. I know artists who would actually do such things, who own a variety of similar collections and get a lot of use out of them. As this is a looser compilation, however, I expect interest from these particular readers to be slightly scattershot. A board swath of artists, techniques and styles are on display here, guaranteeing that not every page will be for everyone.

But the larger portion of its audience is looking less at the actual craftsmanship than the cleverness on display. Jason D’Aquino’s “Joyride,” for example, depicts the familiar image of a boy riding across the moon with an alien in his bicycle basket, but the alien in question is the acid-spewing monstrosity from Ridley Scott’s Alien, not the lovable E.T. A series of quaint, almost naïve family portraits from Kirk Demerais depict clans of kinsfolk from the likes of Back to the Future, There Will Be Blood and The Shining (pictured above), which is of course dripping in irony. Many of the of pieces in Crazy 4 Cult are less clever than they are evocative, like N.C. Winters’ “I Am Jack’s Broken Heart,” which evocatively depicts Helena Bonham Carter as Marla in Fight Club (pictured below). Although these pieces are often indicative of high levels of craftsmanship and would be a fine addition to any gallery, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that what we are really looking at is deviantART’s greatest hits.

Those who would appreciate such things are welcome to enjoy Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art from Gallery 88. There’s a lot of talent on display here and some of the pieces will have you chuckling for a long time. But as anything other than a coffee table conversation piece I have trouble appreciating this book as much more than an advertisement for Gallery 88. That said, it’s an effective advertisement, since I’m already planning to go there at the next possible opportunity.

 

Crave Online Rating: 7/10