Lions and Tigers and Pin-Ups, Oh My! – Jungle Drums by Shag

Corey Helford Gallery downtown

The artist Shag (aka Josh Agle) has a new solo show, Jungle Drums, at the Corey Helford Gallery through February 13, 2016. But before you jump in your car to head for Culver City, you must know that the gallery has moved to a new space in the industrial Arts District of downtown LA.

Shag Jungle Drums

Before you browse the art, you should watch Eric Minh Swenson’s two videos on display in the entrance area (or check them out online). “Shag: My Tiki Cup Runneth Over” gives a glimpse at Shag’s collection of tiki mugs and carvings.

Shag's pin-up inspiration

Meanwhile, “Shag: Jungle Drums” presents some background on the show, including a look at the main source of inspiration: a set of vintage 1950s pin-up decals “in all their politically incorrect glory” that Shag found at a thrift store in his formative younger years.

Jungle Drums art show

One of Shag’s challenges for his first show in this new location was utilizing the “airplane hangar”-like space, so he designed these tall “spirit totems” peeking out behind this wall-sized piece. I like how subjects from his art often show up again in 3D form. (Even the stylized skull tiki torches were made tangible in a collaboration with Mod Fab Group to make the “Skorch.”)

Bunny and the Beasts by Shag

In the show’s artist statement, Shag says: “In the decades since, I’ve seen women reclaim the Pin-up Girl aesthetic: strong, tattooed models and independent female photographers have revived and revitalized the genre and turned themselves into pop culture stars.” This theme of empowerment is represented in “Bunny and the Beasts,” an idealized vision of a 1950s shoot with pin-up photographer “Bunny” Yeager and the iconic Bettie Page.

Primal Cuts by Shag

“Primal Cuts” is the largest painting in the show, clocking in at nine feet long. The female revelers are attired as panthers and their “man-eating” capabilities illustrated by the butcher chart emblazoned on the brown jacket of the man on the far right. (This reminded me of “Predators and Prey” from the 2012 show “Animal Kingdom.”)

close-up of Primal Cuts by Shag

A print of “Primal Cuts” was just made available for purchase online, and Shag: The Store Palm Springs is hosting a release party on February 13th. (Shag is also participating in a few other events during Palm Springs Modernism Week, including a fundraiser cocktail party at the recently restored Caliente Tropics hotel.)

Living room by Modernica Props

The highlight for me is this mid-century modern dream of a living room outfitted by Modernica Props. (It should come as no surprise that they’ve worked with “Mad Men,” amongst many other TV shows.)

Pinup with Tiger and Spirit Mask by Shag

This is also where visitors first encounter Shag’s series of tributes to those jungle pin-ups, each posed with a wild animal and a “spirit mask.” (I’m guessing they weren’t called “tikis” since they’re not in a Polynesian environment?)

Shag spirit masks

Corey Helford Gallery is open from 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The address is on Anderson Street, but you’ll actually find the entrance and fenced-in parking lot by turning right onto Willow Street. The paintings can also be seen on the gallery’s website, but I highly recommend seeing this setup in person if you can.

Corey Helford Gallery
571 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033
310-287-2340

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Mondo Tiki! – Tiki Farm’s 15th Anniversary Exhibition

Tiki Farm sign

Tiki Farm is the king of modern tiki mug manufacturing. For 15 years, founder Holden Westland and his team have collaborated with super-talented artists to create more than 2,000 designs. La Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Angeles is hosting an exhibition of mugs along with art from Tom Laura aka “BigToe,” Scott “Flounder” Scheidly, Doug Horne and Ken Ruzic. There’s also a retro-futuristic solo show, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” from Michelle Bickford.

Mug cases by Bamboo Ben

While the 10th anniversary exhibition rounded up examples of practically every mug Tiki Farm ever produced, this time around the display features 500 of the “most important and coveted selections.” Bamboo Ben customized the eight cases of shelves with bamboo and thatch A-frames.

Bahooka mug and others by The Pizz

Most of the mugs are arranged chronologically, but one of the sections groups together designs by The Pizz, Tiki Farm’s late art director. Seeing so many of my favorites here, like the Bahooka Ruffus mug, for instance, brings home how big a part he played at the company. (Holden penned a beautiful tribute to his friend in the latest issue of Tiki Magazine & More.)

Clifton's owl mug

I’m pretty content with my collection, but this exhibit is full of temptations. This stately mug (by The Pizz) for the recently re-opened Clifton’s Cafeteria caught my eye. It kind of reminds me of the Maltese Falcon … except it’s an owl. I actually ended up visiting that downtown LA landmark the same weekend, but unfortunately they’re out of stock of this style — I hope they get more soon!

Tiki Farm 15th anniversary mugs

Each of the featured artists also designed new mugs in honor of Tiki Farm’s 15th anniversary, including Ken Ruzic’s Poko Ono Pineapple Mug, BigToe’s Bobomb (the iconic Tiki Bob transformed into a hand grenade complete with a pin) and the Rub for Rum Easter Island Tiki Decanter ($75) by Michelle Bickford.

Doug Horne tiki mugs

In the middle is Doug Horne’s Tiki Farm Temple Mug (with holders on the back for Tiki Farm’s anniversary swizzle sticks) and on the right is Flounder’s Nari Rani Marquesan Mug. There were limited edition glazes ($50 each) released at the event — a few are still available on Soap Plant’s website — and Tiki Farm just made the other versions (priced around $20) available for order.

Close-up of "Too Much Information" painting by Ken Ruzic

The artists even incorporated their mug designs into the paintings, as you can see in this close-up look at Ken Ruzic’s “Too Much Information.” I love the whimsical style and incredible details, especially paired with this carved frame by Derek Weaver.

Mondo Tiki catalog

Tiki Farm also made a 40-page booklet ($5) listing all the designs created since 2000, plus some photos and little anecdotes about the process. We also get a sneak peek at some mugs that are in development. There’s some exciting stuff in the works, like a 60th anniversary mug for Oceanic Arts, two new designs for Tiki-Ti, a mug for Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans and a rum barrel/bulldog for Idle Hour in North Hollywood.

Art by Scott Scheidly

Mondo Tiki! is on view until November 29th at La Luz de Jesus. On Saturday, November 28th, Holden, BigToe and Ken will do a “docent tour” from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. to discuss the mugs and art and take questions. You can also see all the art (like Flounder’s gorgeous “Sea Goddess” pictured here) on the website for the gallery.

Atomic Tiki Terrors Art Show at Creature Features

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With its impressive stash of collectibles and memorabilia, Creature Features in Burbank is a must-stop shop for pop culture geeks. Every few months, the store’s gallery hosts themed art shows and the most recent one was “Atomic Tiki Terrors!” It was a mash-up of tiki and ’50s and ’60s monster movies.

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How are they related? Both these forms of escapism tapped into common desires and fears of the time period. Faux-Polynesian paradises were mini-vacations from day-to-day life while the fantastical sci-fi films drew inspiration from the collective anxiety of the Atomic Age.

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I’ve cherrypicked a few of my favorites, including the groovy “Lost Planet” by Woody Miller. (He also had a few tiki-themed pieces in Creature Feature’s The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass Art Show I blogged about previously.)

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I also liked the frenetic action in Ken Ruzic‘s “Atomic Tiki Terror” (in a Bamboo Ben bamboo frame), the cool blue stare in Christine Benjamin‘s “Tiki Invasion” and the cute little skull in the glass fishing float in “Mai Tai Monster” by Tiki tOny. (You’ll have to zoom in to see it.)

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I’ve never really watched “Star Trek” so I had to look up the significance of “Atomikitty” Susannah Mosher‘s painting, “Vina – Orion Slave Girl.” This seductive green alien appeared in the initially unaired pilot (“The Cage”), which was repurposed into a later two-part episode entitled “The Menagerie.” (I love how Susannah incorporated the Star Trek combadge into the tapa print background.)

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Over on the Facebook event page, you can see more of the art from Atomic Tiki Terrors and hear about the inspiration behind some of the pieces. Doug Horne spun quite an origin story for the half-man, half-Tiki-Bob-mug depicted in “Tiki Freak.”

More Tiki Art:
Tiki at “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass”
The Book of Tiki Art Exhibition at M Modern
“The Contemporary Idol” Art Show