Shag: Pink Elephants Art Show

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My favorite tiki-influenced artist is Shag (aka Josh Agle), whose paintings often portray retro revelers indulging in various vices and swilling martinis. But it seems like life has been imitating art a bit too much lately, as Shag candidly shared in the press release for his most recent solo exhibition, Pink Elephants, at the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City.

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He said: “I used alcohol as an aid to create art and as a means to escape the expanding responsibilities of a successful art career…Because I was a well-known artist well known for the glorification of cocktails, I drank for free in many bars and restaurants. Painting became something I did between binges…I stopped drinking the day I realized I hadn’t lifted a paint brush in a week…I’m not declaring I’ll never drink again — I cherish my rum too much…In the meantime, I can make paintings about drinking — paintings that embellish, rebuke, condemn and extol it.”

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The concept of seeing pink elephants has been associated with over-imbibing for at least a century. Jack London is credited with its first recorded use in 1913: “the man…who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants.” (You may be familiar with it from that trippy “Pink Elephants on Parade” dream sequence in “Dumbo.”)

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In addition to the original paintings, the show also included a sculptural piece called Phaedra that Shag designed and Mod Fab produced. One hundred are available and they come with a limited edition serigraph. The sculpture also makes an appearance in “Office Politics” (in the photo above this one).

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Not all of the paintings had pink elephants in them, but they all related to the theme of intoxication, like “Her Lucky Charms.”

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“The Four Martini Lunch” felt very “Mad Men” to me with its misbehaving businessmen. I swear the one on the left looks like Roger Sterling.

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My favorite from the show would probably be “Eight Shades of Drunk.” I can’t resist a good pun — or even a bad one, generally — and I dig the humor and, of course, the atomic-style lampshades.

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I also liked the nod to The Beatles in “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Pink Elephants.” (Though theoretically shouldn’t they have been Elefants with an F or another intentionally wrong spelling?)

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Naturally, I was keeping an eye out for something tiki, so I was pleased to discover “The Plastered Castaway” with its seemingly concerned Moai.

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There were even a dozen smaller paintings of partying pink elephants. Pink elephants have appeared in Shag’s art before, as mentioned on Shagwatch, but I think it’s safe to say that this is the first show in which they’ve been so prominently featured.

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The original paintings sold for thousands of dollars each, but per usual there were a few prints on offer for the more casual customer. “E is For Elephants” ($150, edition of 250) is a continuation of Shag’s A to Z art series. Shag also collaborated with letterpress designer Kevin Bradley on this interesting print “29 Drinks” ($100, edition of 150).

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In other Shag news, he just released a new print called “The Lost Book” that’s being sold on Shagmart. And for Palm Springs Modernism Week, Shag: The Store will host a print release party on Feb. 15 for “The 55th Cocktail Climb,” plus there’s yet another print, “Havana Cha Cha,” for the opening night Modern Mambo! event at Caliente Tropics on Feb. 13.

Related Posts:
Tiki Events at Palm Springs Modernism Week 2014
Shag: Animal Kingdom
Enchanted Tiki Room 50th Anniversary Merchandise by Shag

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Giveaway + Tonga Hut’s 55th Anniversary Celebration

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Last Sunday the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood celebrated its 55th anniversary with an art show, live music and the debut of new merch, including t-shirts, Mai Tai glasses and tiki mugs. (They also took this opportunity to announce that Tonga Hut will open a new location in Palm Springs!

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Since one of the mugs was designed by Shag — and limited to 155 — a considerable line for the merch table had already formed when we arrived a little after the noon start time.

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Shag’s elongated design ($85) is inspired by the tiki near the entrance to the bar, while the open-edition Drooling Bastard mug ($60, included a drink) pays tribute to the fountain inside.

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The art show is always a highlight at these special events at the Tonga Hut. This one included submissions from Doug Horne, Eric October, Philippe Tilikete and other creative folks.

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The bands Casino 66 and Creepxotica performed inside while the parking lot behind the bar featured a bunch of tiki and vintage vendors.

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Deadhead Rum had set up a thatched hut booth that showed off custom decorated “tsantsa” (shrunken head) bottles of their rum. They were also offering free samples of their rum and tequila.

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Just one of the many neat things for sale were these Pyrates of Lana Pua bottles. Each was decorated with a combination of shells, nautical charms and authentic African trading beads.

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I was also enamored with these bejeweled bracelets from Amy, co-owner of the Tonga Hut. I couldn’t resist getting this one…(As if I needed more Enchanted Tiki Room stuff, right? Oh well.)

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Meanwhile, Eric October had designed a print for the Tonga Hut — and Drooling Bastard buttons to boot — and Tiki Val turned the fabric into shirts and other wearable art. (They had also done the same for Bahooka when it closed.)

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The first 200 people at the event received a goodie bag filled with Tonga Hut swizzles, coasters, matchbooks, stickers and bookmark with Shag’s mug design on one side and the recipe for Tonga Hut’s Hawaiian Eye on the other.

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Mr. Hockey has graciously donated his swag bag to be awarded to one lucky reader! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post with a happy birthday message for the Tonga Hut. (Bonus entries can be earned by liking The Tiki Chick on Facebook or following me on Twitter — just leave a comment letting me you’ve done so.) I’ll randomly choose a winner by Tuesday, August 6. (Comments have to be approved on this blog, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t appear right away.)

Related Posts:
Reviews of Tiki Bars in Los Angeles
Tiki Bob Art Show at Tonga Hut
Tonga Hut’s Halloween Art Show

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room 50th Anniversary Merchandise Event

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Last month marked the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, so you know what that means — merchandising opportunity! Disney held a product release event June 28-29 at the Disneyland Hotel (and an even pricier $185 cocktail reception with Shag on Saturday night).

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It wouldn’t be Disney if there wasn’t a line involved, right? First, you had to go to registration to sign in and confirm that you received all the paperwork (assigned time for the artists signing, etc.). After that, you headed to another station to pick up the merchandise you’d already purchased through the RSP (Random Selection Process). Cast members then unwrapped each item to doublecheck they were correct and intact.

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Friday night was so understaffed that this whole process took up to three hours for some people. (Strange since this event had been sold out for weeks so it’s not like they didn’t know how many people would be showing up.) There hadn’t been anything special scheduled for Friday night so I’d decided just to go Saturday, and the wait time was significantly shorter.

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So what would compel all these people to pay $89 apiece to basically just shop? For starters, this was another Disney collaboration with Shag, plus several other amazing artists, like Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily. They designed a whole slew of stuff, including pins (oh so many pins), tiki mugs (and a bowl inspired by Disney’s Polynesian Resort that snuck in under the radar), postcards, coasters, prints, a purse, shirts, tiki figurines, original art and more.

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Working with The Mouse I believe for the first time was Doug Horne, another one of my favorite artists on the tiki scene. He created these two pieces: “Pele, Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes” and “In the Tiki Room,” which are also being sold as prints ($40).

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Everyone was encouraged to wear Hawaiian/Polynesian attire, and it was fun to see folks who really went all out for the occasion.

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One woman had turned her walker into a functional work of art by covering it with moss, cardboard packing material, flowers, shells, parrots and tikis.

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Upon walking into the huge ballroom you were immediately struck by the scent of pineapple infusing the air. The logo and a few images from the Enchanted Tiki Room were projected on the walls, and surf and exotica music helped set the mood. (I don’t think “In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” made the playlist, funny enough.)

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The ballroom was mostly a space for people to relax or engage in pin trading — a running theme of the event —- but there was also a photo-op area where you could pose with Stitch (and a Stitch-inspired tiki) in front of a beachy background. How could I resist?

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Dole has been a sponsor of the Enchanted Tiki Room since 1976, and they supplied goodies for the event, like cans of pineapple juice, fruit cups and recipe cards (the same ones I’ve picked up before at the Dole Whip stand).

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All attendees received two free commemorative gifts: an Enchanted Tiki Room bottle opener (doubles as a magnet) and a wooden sign made to look like the 75 cent tickets that Disneyland guests had to purchase to visit the attraction when it opened in 1963 (because technically the Enchanted Tiki Room was not owned by Disneyland but by Walt’s personal company, WED Enterprises). And if you had registered for the event right away you also got an “Early Birdies” pin. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of all the swag.

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However, the part that truly made this event worthwhile was the “Memory Room” Q&A panels with original imagineers from the Enchanted Tiki Room and their contemporaries who recently worked on restoring the attraction. Bob Gurr talked about drawing the birdcages that hide some of the mechanics, while Rolly Crump relayed “cute stories” about designing the tikis in the garden and what it was like working with “The Old Man” (Walt Disney).

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Many of the merchandise from this event was not limited edition so it’s probably already landed at shops in the park, but I’ve seen how tricky it can be for the stock to keep up with demand. For us, this event was worth it for the convenience and peace of mind (and all the extras Disney ended up throwing in). To paraphrase a famous proverb: “A (tiki) bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Related Posts:
Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Disneyland’s Artist Sketch Program Features Jose from the Enchanted Tiki Room
D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives