Last week, a new art show opened in Chinatown, across the street and down a way from the Lower East Side Skatepark. Situated within view of graffiti, the Klughaus Gallery is one devoted to street culture, and last week a show of work by graphic designer and artist Aaron OBLVN opened. This is OBLVN’s first east coast solo show, and is comprised of a whopping 100 illustrations.
The project took about two and a half months to complete (But I didn’t work around the clock, OBLVN reminds me), and served as an exercise for the artist; reading in a Justin Green comic strip that it takes 100 hours of practice just to get letting perfect, 100 illustrations seemed a good enough challenge to improving one’s painting prowess. While each illustration is drawn in a classic American cartoon style, the characters portrayed in each are different and varied: original and re-imagined characters alike find their homes on the walls at Klughaus, including some favorites from your childhood.
You’ll recognize some of these characters from retro Saturday morning cartoons or comic strips: the Pink Panther and The Inspector, Felix the Cat, Dennis the Menace, to name just a few. But this isn’t a trip down memory lane for viewers’ OBLVN has riffed on the characters, creating darker and badass versions of them. If you’ve ever seen the cartoon show Harvey Birdman which dealt with myths of classic characters, like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo being stoners then you know what to expect.
In OBLVN’s alternate reality, Michigan J. Frog, a Looney Tunes character and washed-up WB Network mascot, sits in a bathtub ready to electrocute himself. OBLVN makes his mischief by presenting well-known characters, twisted and re-mixed with his life and interests. Dennis the menace spray paints a fence, based upon a friend of the artist. â€œI asked: if he could be character, who would he be?â€ says OBLVN.
In another oft-talked about work from the exhibit, Felix the cat disguise saunters out of an elevator carrying a rolled up printâ€”a riff on the theft of a KAWS painting from Marc Ecko’s Chelsea offices: Felix’s disguise carries the mustache of the thief in the surveillance photo of the theft.
The 100 paintings are sometimes cute, sometimes dark but often full of humor, not unlike how a child might render his favorite characters in parody or escapism. But these paintings are taken from an adult’s perspective, opening up fun possibilities for the viewer. [The illustrations] are drawn’ from a time in my life when I literally sat with a pad of paper while watching the television, says OBLVN. What we the viewers are left with is the chance to see classic, favored characters” and original ones, too, rendered in a familiar style freshly updated, and rather more relateable: they’ve grown with us, and from the sheer volume of work on display, one can’t argue OBLVN’s own quest for growth was not time wasted.