What follows, dear reader, is a strange and cautionary tale. A true story in which we will attempt to examine the inexplicable appeal of the apparently random combination of gorillas and gratuitous profanity.
Our story begins with this drawing, created by my own fair hand on the back of an envelope and glued into a notebook, way back in June 2006. (Obviously you can ignore the poorly rendered fire extinguisher, and concentrate on the image on right hand page.)
Actually I’ve just remembered that, in actual fact our tale truly begins with a scribbled note in an entirely different journal, one which I sadly can’t find right now. The note said something like: “Draw a gorilla with those lines around it that make things look like things are vibrating”. I sometimes make notes like this in a misguided attempt to remind myself of things that I think will be cool to draw. I realize that most other artists would probably just do a skillful but lightening fast sketch to be referred to and improved upon later, but I write words instead. It’s what I do– judge me if you want. More often than not I’ll immediately forget about these scribbled notes and that’ll be the end of the matter, but for some reason in this case I didn’t. I actually drew the gorilla, complete with the ‘vibrating lines’ which proved to be unsatisfactory, and then I added the non sequitur you see above. I have no idea where that phrase actually came from. It simply plopped into my head after I had drawn the gorilla, and then scribbled colored pencil around it in an attempt to assuage the disappointment I felt when the whole ‘vibrating lines’ thing failed to live up to my hopes and dreams. Eventually I posted the above image to my Flickr page and found the response was both immediate, and alarmingly positive. I even got a request to purchase the drawing, (presumably be ripped out of the notebook in which it resided). In the end I actually created another version and sold that one. What was interesting though, was the way people responded- the enjoyment this apparently random concoction of words and images gave to otherwise rational people.
A little less than a year later I was preparing for a solo show at a gallery in San Francisco and decided to turn the notebook image into the small mixed media on canvas painting you see below.
As soon as the show went up the gorilla sold immediately and at the opening several people told me they wished that they had bought it, and asked me to let hem know if I ever created another version, or made a print of the same subject. The print thing eventually happened, after a fashion, when I posted it to my Society 6 page in 2010, and made it available in a variety of formats. And while I wasn’t exactly able to retire on the proceeds it did sell pretty well.
After I joined the Compound Gallery & Studios in 2012 I started to make my own letterpress prints in small editions and, of course, I inevitably thought of the Fucking Gorilla. I did another version of the drawing and had a photopolymer plate made up, and the result was a series of letterpress prints that look a lot like this…
Once again the unique combination of ape and vulgarity proved popular, with prints being dispatched as far afield as Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, as well as several US destinations.
But our tale doesn’t end here. No. In fact it just get more bizarre. Because at around this same time I received an unsolicited email from a perviously unknown Canadian named Tia McGregor, informing me that she had written and staged a play based on the gorilla piece. The title of the play was, not surprisingly, “You And That Fucking Gorilla”, and it had its debut at Victoria University in Victoria, British Columbia. Although I sadly didn’t get to witness a performance I did read the script and, I have to tell you, to my untrained eye it was pretty damn good. I realize that this all sounds highly unlikely, so as irrefutable evidence that I’m not just making stuff up, here are a couple of shots of the production, complete with gorilla, who appears to meet a tragic end.
So there we have it– the evolution of Gratuitous Simian Profanity from scribbled note to stage production. None of which actually helps us understand the appeal of this particular combination of words and pictures. Perhaps the whole thing was best summed up by a visitor to The Compound who purchased one of the gorilla prints. She revealed that she was actually a gorilla researcher who spends her days working with the beasts, and one of her friends had emailed her the image, presumably because she shared the sentiment expressed. Her pertinent observation was “why would anyone else appreciate this?”.
Okay people, I know there had been a continuation of the shameful lack of regular posting, but I swear from now on I’ll be trying oh-so-hard to get my act together and give you sufficient warning of all upcoming exciting and important events.
So, lets kick off 2014 with the timely announcement that I will be taking part in a three person show at the awesome Compound Gallery in Oakland. The show is entitled Things That Happened and Things We Made Up, and my fellow artists are the magnificently talented Alison Tharp, and the equally superb Liam Golden. It is an honor indeed to be hanging on the same walls as these two, and it should be a very interesting, provocative and entertaining show. I plan on having around 15 new pieces on the walls, including some new paintings. I’ll be posting a few little tasters in various places over the coming weeks.
The Grand Opening Shenanigan will be on Saturday February 8th, from 6-9 pm, and the exhibition will be hanging until Sunday March 3rd. On that very day, at 3p.m., there will be a Closing Tea and something called an Artists Panel, which I haven’t actually had explained to me yet, but probably will involve me mumbling incoherently in front of a handful of people who only really want free tea. Anyway, it is my fervent hope that you, dear reader, will find the time and inclination to visit this breathtaking spectacle. Perhaps I will even be lucky enough to see you there.
In Other News:
That esteemed, Berkeley based, magazine of the arts, Works and Conversations recently published an interview with Yours Truly in their latest issue, No 27. You can get you hands on a copy right here, or you can save your money and get instant gratification by reading the whole interview on their website, right here. (Obviously paying for the magazine is preferable since the money goes to an excellent cause, and you get large reproductions of several of my pieces in the magazine itself, but far be it from me to stand in moral judgement over your decisions.)
However if you feel the need for guilt-free downloads that feature my bewildered scribblings then point your little pointy digital thing right here, and download a pdf of the latest issue (Number 14) of the truly excellent Composite Magazine. This is the Reprobates issue, and it features several bits and pieces of mine, all reproduced in glorious digital color, plus a ton of other awesome artwork. Highly recommended!
Strictly speaking this show is actually “Hands & Pants 4” , Hands & Pants being John’s collaborative drawing venture, which now involves more than 70 of his artist buddies. Basically the mighty Mr Casey draws some hands and pants, in his simple pen-and-ink style on 8″x10″ Bristol paper, and then he sends his drawing to an invited artist (me, in this case). The artist is then asked to complete the figure in any way they see fit.
And this is how I saw fit.
You can see how everyone else saw fit right here.
Okay I admit it, this is a very late post. I don’t know why I find it so hard to update this blog when I regularly update my Tumblr and Flickr pages. I have some kind of mental block about WordPress. However, based on the principal that Late is better than Never, heres the NEWS.
Of most immediate importance is the fact that I have a solo exhibition of all of my Apology Drawings on right now at The Compound Gallery in Oakland, CA. I’m afraid the opening reception has come and gone, but the gallery is open Thursday – Sunday 12 noon to 6 pm, and the show is on until Sunday June 9th. This is also the date of The Closing Tea, where I’ll be delivering what has optimistically been labeled an ‘Artist Talk’. And, if you can’t make that, you can watch the whole debacle streaming LIVE on The Compound Gallery website. You can even send in awkward questions, in real time, for me to ignore.
If you can’t wait till then to get answers to your many questions you might find they have already been answered in this interview about the show which appeared on Jeremyriad.com. There’s even a little Vine video of me in action.
I sincerely hope you can make along to the show, but if your impressively hectic schedule doesn’t allow it, you can still buy a little Apology of your own right now at the Compound Online Shop. I’ve also produced a couple of limited runs of Apology letter press prints which are for sale at a very reasonable prices at the show, and probably a bit later online.
Not only that but visitors are welcome to leave their own contribution on the fabulously interactive Apology Wall.
I’m sorry, but how can you resist this?
I recently completed a fairly magnificent portrait of someone who eats at a Taco Bell somewhere in Ohio so often that they became the ‘Mayor’ of that Taco Bell on Four Square. It was quite possibly my finest moment.
Taco Bell just posted a YouTube video of the subject being presented with her likeness as part of her Very Special Day. And here, for your edification, is a remarkable screenshot of that very moment.
The show opened this weekend and is being held in conjunction with Gnap! Theatre Projects upcoming 44 Plays for 44 Presidents stage production which will be opening at the Theatre on October 5th. The exhibition features 75 portraits, one of every contender who has lost the U.S. Presidential Election.
My subject of my portrait, Hubert Humphrey, lost the the 1968 election to that that delightful character Richard Nixon. Humphrey was Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President at the time, and “Hubert who?” was allegedly Johnson’s response when, because he was unable to attend Winston Churchill’s funeral, an advisor suggested he send Hubert along as his representative. Humphrey did not attend the funeral. The other quote is from HHH himself, and seemed appropriate considering the forgettable outcome of his Presidential ambitions.
I’ve never really understood that whole “no news is good news” thing.
Anyhow, here’s some news. It’s good news. And it’s name is The Compound Gallery.
That’s right, dear reader(s) my humble artworks have found a splendid new home, just a hop, skip and jump across the bay from my own San Francisco home, in Oakland’s most awesome gallery. I’m excited fit to bust, which as you can imagine, is a state I’m not often witnessed in, and one it’s probably best not to imagine.
Right now I have several pieces displayed in the spectacularly named Special Collection and Print Lounge, and another big painting in the Art in a Box Headquarters (more about Art in a Box shortly). But what I’m really excited about is the prospect of a solo show of all my Apology Drawings in the Main Gallery next year. Not sure of exact dates yet, but check back and I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime allow me to explain the frequent, and so far mysterious, box references that have blighted this blog.
I’m thrilled to announce I’ll also be contributing to The Compound’s Art in a Box service. Art in a Box is an art subscription service based on the model of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box, but instead of worthy but flavorless vegetables it delivers gloriously original works of art to subscribers. Every box’s contents are created by a local Bay Area artist, such as myself, and subscribing couldn’t be simpler. Just supply three adjectives to describe your taste in art, then describe the types of media you like or, more importantly, dislike, and choose how often you want your boxes dispatched (every month, every other month, quarterly, etc.). You will then receive, upon your doorstep, a carefully chosen piece of original art in a robust yet attractive box each month of your subscription. ‘How much does remarkable service cost?’, I hear you mumble breathlessly. Surely and arm and a leg, if not a spleen and a small intestine. Well stand back and firmly grasp a piece of sturdy furniture my friends, because subscribers pay a mere $50 per box. Yes, you read that right, fifty trifling bucks. And in fact if you could overcome that crippling idleness of yours and make it to the gallery in person, you could pick up your boxed art yourself and save $10 in the process. Not only that, but you could behold the wondrousness that is The Compound Gallery into the bargain.
I hope to see you there one day soon. In the meantime you can subscribe right here.