If you live in Beverly Hills, you’ve certainly seen the friendly fruit and veggie faces that brighten our farmers’ market logo. The man behind this whimsical illustration is Gary Baseman.
How many cities can boast a logo for their market by a world-renowned artist with a museum retrospective? “Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open" is on view now at the Skirball Cultural Center; catch it before it closes Sun., Aug. 18.
“Gary helped organize our pie festival and designed the “Piesta” logo,” said market manager Greta Dunlap, “He happily agreed to design the market signage that’s on banners, bags and aprons.”
He was thanked by the city with a proclamation declaring ”Gary Baseman Day” in Beverly Hills in 2004.
As Baseman’s late father Ben reassured him, “Gary, the door is always open.” Hence the title of this exuberant exhibit that is as deeply personal as it is purely delightful.
His sketchbooks, paintings, magazine covers, costumes, toys and personal memorabilia fill the gallery that replicates his family home in the Fairfax district – complete with actual family furniture.
Skirball visitors enter the creative universe of this master of many disciplines – with super-sized illustrations of his signature characters greeting them like a reception line at a bar mitzvah.
Baseman’s imaginary friends are mashups of cute and mischievous plus a little bit of kink. Embellished with his distinctive drips of paint, they populate his paintings, often floating against fantastic landscapes – a nod to Marc Chagall.
We’re invited into his studio and learn about his creative process. In the living room, we imagine a young Baseman crouched over a marble coffee table, drawing. Fast forward: Emmy® Awards for his animated show Disney’s “Teacher’s Pet” glisten atop the faux fireplace mantel.
In the dining room, a High Holiday dinner party is set Baseman-style. Even the wallpaper was created exclusively by Baseman for the exhibit. Videos of his bar mitzvah and family gatherings play in the background, and it feels like everyone in Los Angeles is a part of the family.
The centerpiece of the study honors his parents who were Holocaust survivors. Reflecting his journey to the family's Ukraine village, Baseman's expansive painting with its mystical birch forest filled with spirits pays homage to his heritage and even gefilte fish.
Although his family stayed close to home – his mother worked at Canter's Deli on Fairfax for years – the L.A. native is now a world traveler. He documents his trips with photos of his popular pleather pal Toby taking center stage. Like traditional portraits with a happy twist, his alter ego is surrounded by new friends in the framed pictures that line the hallway of the Skirball home setting.
For fun and games, hang out in the den. Baseman loves play and illustrated the colorful board game, Cranium© as well as designed fantastic figurines and their playful packages.
Make the Skirball a museum-must before the exhibit closes. You’re sure to feel welcome, like a friend of Baseman – whether real or imagined.
The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 440-4500 http://www.skirball.org/exhibitions/gary-baseman