The retro-style paintings of Shag may have gotten me into tiki in the first place, but there are many talented tiki artists I haven’t talked about nearly as much. Another one of my favorites is Brad Parker, aka Tiki Shark, who had a show called “Tales from the Tiki Lounge” at La Luz de Jesus gallery last summer. (I know I’m quite late to the party with this post.)
I first found his work a few years ago on Tiki Central and I was an instant fan of his beautiful, mystical and whimsical style. I also love how he brings in other pop-culture influences like comic books, noir and the Universal movie monsters. (Before moving to the Big Island he had worked for DC and Marvel Comics and also in Hollywood production design.)
He’s had a longstanding gig designing beach towels for Body Glove — I have a couple and they’re awesome — and for this show he handpainted a 1980s surfboard he’d specially picked out from the “vaults” of the surf company’s headquarters in Redondo Beach.
“Tales from the Tiki Lounge No. 10: Happy Hulaween” is a pulp-fiction-style revisiting of the “Monsters on Vacation” series I mentioned from the 13th annual Everything But the Kitsch’n Sync show a few years ago at La Luz de Jesus.
Brad continued that theme with “The Invisible Man Goes Surfing,” who’s decked out in Body Glove gear, of course. Notice how every surfer is supposed to wear a lucky tiki pendant and this guy is no exception to that rule.
His designs have been adapted to other items like these limited edition skate decks and tiki mugs, too. Tiki Farm has produced several of the latter, including Diga Diga Doo and Lil’ Dig (based on one of his paintings), the bestselling Hawaii 50th anniversary statehood mug and the lovely Makalani Bowl (a personal favorite). Coming up in October is the release of three sea creature tiki mugs he designed for the 60th anniversary of Body Glove.
Thor Heyerdahl’s Peru-to-Polynesia voyage was a cakewalk compared to the shark-saturated waters in “Kon Tiki Dream.” It’s impressive how Brad depicts the static solidity of the wood tiki carving while simultaneously evoking so much emotion through its scared smile.
Meanwhile, “Hawaiian Eye” pays tribute to the 1960s television show of the same name, which was based on the escapades of a private detective agency in Honolulu. (The Book of Tiki 10th anniversary art show at M Modern in Palm Springs also featured a painting inspired by that series.)
You can see all the art from this exhibition on the web site for La Luz de Jesus gallery, and if you’re lucky enough to be on the Big Island you can find his other original paintings at the Wyland Kona Oceanfront Gallery. (His postcards and calendars have been popping up in souvenir shops on the Islands, too.) Brad Parker also keeps this Tiki Central thread updated with his latest projects.