In 2004, Jensen Karp and Katie Cromwell opened up a gallery in Los Angeles called Gallery1988, focusing entirely on something the rest of the art world seemed to be ignoring — works inspired by pop culture. "We didn't expect to be in business for more than a year," says Karp. Today, the gallery is more popular than ever, with two locations in LA and shows in New York City, and it just launched its second book based on the Crazy 4 Cult series. It features fantastic pieces inspired by everything from Alien and Donnie Darko to Little Shop of Horrors and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
"I think our generation, both the artists and the buyers, aren't solely influenced by the masters like Picasso and Degas," explains Karp. "Now they're influenced by Nintendo and Bill Murray movies."
By focusing on those influences, Gallery1988 has inspired an incredible amount of creativity from a diverse range of artists. And in the gallery space, it's a vein of creativity that was previously untapped. Karp notes that in the past, many artists were actively discouraged from using pop culture icons in their work. "We were like, 'Please do that!'" he explains. "We knew that if we just stayed on course, people would learn about it and be drawn to it just like we were."
"Now they're influenced by Nintendo and Bill Murray movies."
Crazy 4 Cult is the gallery's biggest show, and it first kicked off in 2007. It features plenty of the usual suspects, and many artists seem drawn to the same films — the new book features numerous interpretations based on hits like Shaun of the Dead and Back to the Future, for instance. "I'm never really surprised that the same few movies seem to pop up," says Karp. "From our generation some movies are just seen as art, and most are by notable auteur directors who are almost painters themselves." But it's also a cult show, so there are plenty of pieces inspired by somewhat surprising sources, whether it's Strange Brew or The Cable Guy.
The show hasn't just caught the attention of fans and the art world, though, it's also attracting the actors and directors featured in Crazy 4 Cult exhibits. Seth Rogen wrote the foreword for the new book, and Karp recently got an email from Sylvester Stallone inquiring about a Rocky piece. Previous buyers have included J.J. Abrams, Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, and Edgar Wright. "Nothing beats the fact that a piece with Nic Cage riding a robot was given to Nic Cage as a gift," says Karp. "We can walk away after that, really."
Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2 is available today, and you can check out a sampling of the book below.