Gallery 1988 | Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art (Titan Books)

What it ultimately comes down to, though, is that you’ll probably like the art inspired by films you like and you won’t like the art inspired by the films you don’t like.

 

176 pages; $34.95
In theory it sounds like a good idea: a book based on a show called “Crazy 4 Cult” held by L.A.’s Gallery 1988 of art inspired by cult movies. That sounds right up my alley! But if you sit and give it a moment’s thought, it seems more likely than not that it will be populated by your typical fan art, and with the term ‘cult movies’ meaning about as much as ‘punk rock’ these days, it has the potential to be a very frustrating missed opportunity indeed.
 
And while I haven’t been to a Crazy 4 Cult show at Gallery 1988 proper, judging by the book alone the idea and resulting art falls somewhere between a good idea and useless fanboyism, though sadly perhaps a little closer to the latter. While there are most certainly some gems in the book, there is a high ratio of bad art, undeserving and/or not-really-cult movies, and even some layout problems.
 
The one big plague on the Crazy 4 Cult book is how derivative most of the art is. Sure, there are some big names here (the best-known contributor is Shepard Fairey, who contributed two pieces inspired by They Live!), but on the whole it feels not just like artists were charged with cult movie-themed art, but to make cult movie-themed art in the style of a famous artist. Though they didn’t contribute to the volume, some of the art is a dead ringer for the style of Chris Ware or Sam Smith or Yoshitomo Nara, though of course lacking those artists’ panache, wit, and creativity.
 
Another missed opportunity of the book’s is that it is kind of fun your first pass through to play the “guess what movie this piece was inspired by” game, except that with just a few exceptions the art inspired by each movie is clustered all together, so once you pick out a Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory piece it falls into place that the next seven are all the same thing. And yes, there are a ton of Willy Wonka and The Big Lebowski and Donnie Darko and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, but only one each of Pink Flamingos and Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is frustrating. Worse is the juxtaposition of movies good and bad—for example, there’s a cool piece on Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale on page 136, but then a piece on sucker’s movie extraordinaire The Boondock Saints on page 137.
 
What it ultimately comes down to, though, is that you’ll probably like the art inspired by films you like and you won’t like the art inspired by the films you don’t like. My relative likes and dislikes almost exclusively followed this trend, and you know when you hit an exception that that particular piece must be one of the best, by virtue of the fact that it stood out to you anyway. In this vein, one of the best in the book is an image by Jason d’Aquino of Elliott riding his bicycle in front of the moon with the alien from Alien in his basket—don’t get me wrong, I like both E.T. and Alien, but neither film is exactly one of my all-time favorites, and yet I really like this piece. Other noteworthies are a series of family portraits (the McFlys, the Torrances, the Griswolds, etc.) by Kirk Demarais, a series called “Great Showdowns” by Scott Campbell (which include fun stuff like apes vs. the monolith from 2001, Travis Bickle vs. the mirror in Taxi Driver, the Man in Black vs. Vizzini and Fezzik in The Princess Bride, and Renton vs. the toilet in Trainspotting), and a piece on Fight Club styled after Calvin & Hobbes, with Tyler standing in for Hobbes and the narrator standing in for Calvin. But when it comes down to it, inspired art such as these account for maybe 5% of the book (with some of the best art hidden under the dustjacket for some unknown reason), and that ratio’s just not good enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend this book. Still, it’ll make for a fun browse the next time you’re in a bookstore, and if I’m ever in L.A. when Gallery 1988 has their Crazy 4 Cult exhibit up, you can bet I’ll go. | Pete Timmermann

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