Like his mythical monster-creature Ooga, self-described pervasive artist Gary Baseman has many heads. The products of his subversively sweet eye have appeared in numerous pubs including Time, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. Chronicle Books just released a mega-monograph of his art entitled Dumb Luck; his commercial design has been courted by corporate giants, and appears on the packaging of the brainy board game, Cranium. [Editor’s note: If you’ve never played it, this is the best. game. ever.] Baseman also served as creator and executive producer on ABC/Disney’s Teacher’s Pet, an Emmy award-winning animated series featuring a talking dog masquerading as a fourth-grader that was adapted into a feature film in 2004.
Yet the prolific renaissance man is still best known for his colorful, substantive, illustration-based fine art. While Baseman’s unique brand of creativity is based in toy culture and commercial design, it reveals more profound elements that tend to perplex, confound, and inadvertently delight the viewer. Baseman’s wide-ranging body of work contains crossover appeal while remaining decidedly individualistic — it’s easy to see how his signature style has led him to be named one Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Most Creative People in Entertainment.
This month Baseman temporarily decamps from his home base in LA for an emotionally grueling trek to Tel Aviv, his first trip to the city since the age of 12. Urbanix — the premier art gallery and shop in Israel to devote itself exclusively to urban art and vinyl toys — has teamed up with Bezalel Academy of Art and Design for Baseman’s first solo show in the war-ravaged Promised Land. The Sacrificing of the Cake, which opened January 8th, features a selection of Baseman’s all-new acrylic paintings and color pencil drawings.
Through the endearing-yet-disturbing figure of Ooga (“cake” in Hebrew), Baseman explores themes of cultural identity and personal conflict. His wide-eyed nymphets repeatedly feast on the bewildered, dragon-like Ooga, representing Baseman’s own struggles to forgo the confining boundaries of his inherited ideals. But the painful revelatory process is not without reward; through investing himself emotionally in his work, Baseman emerges a more self-assured, focused, and ultimately triumphant creative force.
In conjunction with The Sacrificing of the Cake, Baseman displays his hypnotic live painting skills at Ozen Bar (48 King George Street, Tel-Aviv) on January 17th at an event hosted by Urbanix, with live music supplied by DJ Yogo. The Sacrificing of the Cake at Urbanix continues through March 12th.