Recognized for his talent to use a cartoonish visual style to present the viewers with frightening and provocative content, Gary Baseman is an American contemporary artist who works with a wide range of different mediums. He possesses a strong artistic mastery over illustration, fine art, performance art, design and animation. Baseman’s unique aesthetic blends aspects of iconic Pop art images, vintage motifs, cross-cultural mythology, literary archetypes and psychological models, all underlined by a cartoonish visual vocabulary. The last serves the role of a trademark as the playful, devious and cleverly named creatures are an instant giveaway that you are looking at a Gary Baseman artwork.
Gary Baseman was born in the metropolis of Los Angeles in the year of 1960 and was raised in the city’s Fairfax district. He was the fourth child of Holocaust survivors who were originally from Poland – his father was an electrician and mother was an employee of Canter’s Deli. For as far back as he can remember, Baseman was inspired by Warner Bros. cartoons, MAD Mag and Disneyland and these creative resources still play a major part of Gary’s creations to this day. Another strong influence to the young Gary were his two close friends that are still a big part of his life today – Barry Smolin, who is now a radio host and musician, and Seth Kurland, a writer and TV producer. Baseman studied communications at UCLA. After graduation, the author started dedicating all his efforts towards establishing what he calls pervasive art – an alternative to the lowbrow art label. From that point on, Gary was using that term to didactically describe the broad shift in his and others’ work to more visible avenues of art-making. The ultimate goal of pervasive art was to blur the lines between fine art and commercial art; it also allowed the artist to take on any medium and it did not bind him or her to any one world, whether that is the gallery world, editorial world or art toy world.
Gary established himself as the leading international artist during the time between the years of 1986 and 1996 when he worked as an illustrator in New York. He became an in-demand artist with a unique visual sense and the ability to generate sharp, witty messages. In fact, Baseman refers to his illustration work, and to his general process for that matter, as message-making and this is really important to understand when analyzing any of this artist’s works regardless of their type. After proving himself as the leading illustrator, Gary Baseman expanded his practices to performance art, fine art and design whilst he maintained his unique, subtle and dark style.
Recognitions and Successes
Baseman’s illustrations and other artworks have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Furthermore, he has had major independent and corporate clients such as AT&T Corporation, Gatorade, Nike, Inc. and Mercedes-Benz. Besides his artistic practices, Gary is also the creator of the Emmy-winning ABC/Disney cartoon series titled as Teacher’s Pet and the artistic designer of Cranium, a popular award-winning board game.
Gary Baseman is renowned for his ability to present the viewers with dark themes and content by relying on cartoonish visual vocabulary
The Unique Contrast of Gary Baseman
Gary’s ability to combine different visual and emotional tones is virtually unrivaled by any contemporary author. Baseman successfully references cartoon imagery and children’s books whilst blending the content with a much darker, moodier themes that introduce wide-eyed devils, nymphs, skeletons and beasts. Surprisingly, this kind of contrast works phenomenally and it truly has a remarkable effect on the viewers. It will cause an instant joy and a sense of nostalgia within the audience before making them aware of the fact that the entire piece has a much grimmer meaning hidden behind the bright colors and carefree atmosphere.
Gary Baseman lives and works in Los Angeles, California, The United States.
- Baseman, G., Gray, D A., Heimann, J., Heller, S., Hutchison, A., Rosen, A., Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open, Skira Rizzoli, 2013
- Baseman, G., Pao & Paws, Dumb Luck: The Art of Gary Baseman, Chronicle Books, 2004
Featured image: Gary Baseman – The Artist in Front of His Work – Image via arrestedmotion.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only.