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Art Design

Demented Toys by Obvious Plant Confront Harsh Realities and the Mundanity of Life

February 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Obvious Plant

Unless you want a distraught child, double-check the packaging of your next purchase in case you accidentally snag a one-off toy by Jeff Wysaski, aka Obvious Plant. For years, he’s been littering supermarket and drugstore shelves with his action figures and small games that cleverly comment on capitalism and the harsh realities we all experience, from a birthday for one—it “includes one party blower because that is all you will need”—to a “childless couple” riding matching jet skis. Sometimes parodying pop culture, the elaborate designs are paired with witty copy and a slew of intentional spelling errors, including warnings that “everybody dies, even bird.”

Many of the subversive products, shirts, and other goods are available in the Obvious Plant shop, although they sell out quickly. To stay up-to-date on the latest designs, follow Wysaski on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Cloaked in Light, Tate Britain Celebrates Diwali Through an Eclectic Technicolor Installation

November 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Remembering a Brave New World.” All images © Chila Kumari Singh Burman, courtesy of Tate Britain

A new installation by artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman masks the stately columns and ornate flourishes of Tate Britain’s facade, enveloping the London museum in a blanket of LED lights. In “Remembering a Brave New World,” technicolor symbols, pop culture references, and religious iconography transform the neoclassical structure into an illuminated space for celebration. The public artwork was revealed on December 14 to coincide with the start of Diwali, the five-day Indian festival of lights, and casts a kaleidoscopic glow on the surrounding area.

The eclectic collection draws on Punjabi Liverpudlian artist’s own life and family history, which manifests in pieces like the multi-colored ice cream truck. After moving to England, her father purchased one of the vehicles, an experience that imprinted her childhood.

 

Other elements focus on the United Kingdom’s history of imperialism: the Britannia figure at the building’s apex, for example, is camouflaged with Kali, the Hindu goddess of liberation and power, while the lower region features Rani of Jhansi, the warrior and leader of the Indian resistance against the British in 1857. “It’s important to critique buildings like this because they’re very Eurocentric,” Burman said in an interview with Dezeen. “So, I just thought: why not do something that captures what we’re all going through right now? I felt like it needed a blast of joy and light. And Diwali is about good over evil, about hope, unity and the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Glowing Hindu deities sprawl across the windows and arches, as well, including Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and purity, and Ganesh, the god of prosperity. The religious figures juxtapose the more playful elements, like a life-sized tiger, peacock, and pair of lips.

“Remembering a Brave New World” is the fourth annual winter commission by Tate Britain. The public artwork will be on display through the end of January, even while the inner halls of the museum are closed to visitors due to the ongoing pandemic. Follow Burman’s projects that explore questions of power and identity on Instagram.

Update: A previous iteration of this article incorrectly identified the lights as neon, not LED.

 

 

 



Design

The Sm;)e Book Celebrates the Decades-Long, Eclectic History of the Smiley Face

October 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of DB Burkeman and Rich Browd, shared with permission

From plastic grocery bags to original emojis to household goods and paraphernalia, the yellow smiley face is an iconic mark of modern culture. A new book funding on Kickstarter celebrates the symbol’s decades-long history as it dives into the eclectic uses that range from fine art to graffiti to Hollywood. In 60 pages, The Sm;)e Book compiles work from 70 artists, including Banksy, the Chapman Brothers,  Alicia McCarthy, and James Joyce.

Despite the smiley’s well-known status throughout the mainstream culture, the book is particularly personal to co-creators DB Burkeman and Rich Browd. Burkeman shares with Colossal that his mother was fascinated by the hippie movement and plastered surfaces with smiley face stickers and adorned her clothing with grinning patches and pins. As he grew up and later became a DJ, he noticed the symbol flourishing in the punk and rave scenes as a new kind of countercultural mark. Browd had a similar childhood experience, growing fascinated by the icon in “graffiti, skate graphics, and the Pop Art collection of a wealthy friend’s parents.”

Today, the duo remains enamored with the evolution of the smiley face and its prevalence in seemingly contradictory spaces. “In the history of graphic design, I can think of no other symbol that has ever held such a duality—used simultaneously as both a positive mainstream driver and a counterculture subverter of that very mainstream,” Burkeman writes. He explains further:

Now retired from nightlife and mostly confused by a lot of today’s popular culture, I’ve watched the smiley return with a vengeance. Partly fueled by the prolific use of emojis, but also by the insatiable consumption and recycling of pop culture’s logos and tropes. Today’s youth love and reuse them, regardless of whether the new users know the logos’ origins or not: little girls and celebrities wearing the Thrasher logo who have never read the magazine or skated in their lives, hip-hop kids wearing hair-metal or post-punk band shirts. Does it even matter that they have no idea what these bands sounded like or represented? It’s all part of this strange cultural cannibalism.

Browd and Burkeman are sharing glimpses intoThe Sm;)e Book on Instagram, where you also can follow the collection’s funding progress during the next month. (via It’s Nice That)

 

 

 



Animation Design

The World's Largest Robot Walks, Kneels, and Points Toward the Sky Above Japan

October 5, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Shutterstock

An iconic sci-fi character comes to life in the form of an enormous droid that looms 60-feet above Japan. A project of Gundam Factory Yokohama, it’s the tallest robot in the world, and after months of engineering, this life-sized bot now can swivel its head, kneel, point upward, and even walk, despite weighing an incredible 55,500 pounds.

RX-78-2 Gundam robot is straight from Mobile Suit Gundam, the 1979 animated television series that originally was directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino and animated by Sunrise, before turning into a massive franchise with more than 50 films, television spin-offs, manga, and video games. It was slated for unveiling at a new amusement park dedicated to the bot this October, but the opening has been postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you have the chance to visit the Tokyo area in the next year, however, Gundam will be stationed in the Port of Yokohama, which is just south of the city. (via My Modern Met)

 

 

 



Design Illustration

Contemporary Films Are Reimagined as Vintage Book Covers by Illustrator Matt Stevens

June 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Matt Stevens, shared with permission

Generally, the adaptation pipeline begins with books and ends in film, but Charlotte-based designer and illustrator Matt Stevens has turned that process around. For an ongoing project that’s simply titled Good Movies as Old Books, Stevens reimagines contemporary movies as vintage paperbacks and cloth-bound texts, covering Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, one of the illustrator’s favorite editions. “A movie I love, the idea came quickly and easily, and it really captures something about the film and the jazz-era style,” he says.

The project has culminated in a series of prints and a forthcoming book, which Stevens recently launched as part of a Kickstarter campaign. “From my ever-growing and changing master list, once I hit 100 entries, I will have a list of about 40 that I wasn’t able to include,” he says. “Maybe a volume 2?” Keep up with all of Stevens’s new releases on Instagram. (via Plain Magazine)

 

 

 

 



Illustration

Pop Culture Icons Undergo Taxonomic Studies in These Vintage-Style Illustrations

May 29, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Audrey II Study.” All images © Chet Phillips

How would you biologically classify a hippogriff? Austin-based illustrator Chet Phillips is offering his own taxonomic studies for some of pop culture’s most iconic characters as part of his Unnatural History series. Through vintage-style illustrations, the artist renders a flying monkey from The Wizard of Oz, Krampus, and The Lion King‘s animated duo Timon and Pumba complete with their identifying information.

You can browse the entire Unnatural History collection and pick up your own print on Etsy. Phillips also shares much of his work that’s based in contemporary culture on Behance and Instagram.  (via Laughing Squid)

 

Left: “Hippogriff Study.” Right: “Alien Study”

“Flying Monkey Study”

Left: “Skull Island King Study.” Right: “Krampus Study”

“Killer Rabit Study”

“Warthog and Meerkat Study”