Gary Baseman’s “The Door Is Always Open” Book
Skira Rizzoli is extremely proud to be publishing The Door Is Always Open, which will accompany the first museum retrospective of the extraordinary art and world of Gary Baseman.
A born artist who is literally never without a sketchbook, Gary Baseman expresses his work in a language rich with references to the American pop culture, television, films, games, toys, and cartoons—vintage and contemporary—that he was especially attuned to as a first generation American. Born in 1960 to Eastern-European Jewish parents who both survived the Holocaust, Gary was raised in Los Angeles, where the family, which included two older brothers and an older sister, had emigrated via Winnipeg, Canada, after the war. “The door is always open” is an expression Gary’s father used to let him know that no matter where he was in the world, or whatever he did, there would always be a home to return to. As simple as that phrase sounds, the idea behind it gave Gary Baseman a sense of security that permitted him to go out into the world with an open heart and mind, and to take artistic and creative risks that have yielded a rich and enigmatic body of work.
With The Door Is Always Open, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles presents the first major retrospective of Gary Baseman’s career to date, exhibiting the artist’s work and the personal ephemera which helps contextualize themes that flow through his oeuvre. The show, which will run from April 25th to August 18th 2013, is designed to resemble a domestic interior set in the museum’s galleries, evoking the tremendous significance of “home” and “family” in Baseman’s work. Each room is used to represent different significant themes—The Living Room welcomes the viewer into his world; The Dining Room is for family celebration and breaking bread; The Hallway represents the journey from one place to another, and in this section Baseman details his avid world travels accompanied by Toby, a creature of his own creation who appears in classic tourist photos of world monuments. One feasts in The Kitchen, but one also experiences hunger and longing there. One is inspired in The Study and searches there for truth. The Bedroom is for exploring the intersections of love and desire, intimacy and sex—perpetual themes in Baseman’s work. The Studio for an artist is where creativity is made manifest, and Baseman’s workspace—packed with toys, books, vintage postcards, sketchbooks, and canvas—is a fascinating look at the tools, inspiration, and process that results in his work. The Den is for play, and in this section Baseman explores his collaborations including his animation, and toy-making; The Backyard is where kids put on a show, and in this room Baseman explores his interactive performance art; and The Garage is a space for storage of the past and transitioning to the future. Interspersed in the book are insightful essays by Alice Hutchison who co-curated the exhibition at the Skirball Center; Aaron Rosen, a lecturer in Sacred Traditions and the Arts, at King’s College, London; Jim Heimann, a graphic designer, author, and long-time friend; and Steven Heller, a prolific author on design, former art director at the New York Times Book Review, and professor at the School of Visual Arts, NYC.
In addition to examining the evolution of his work, the exhibition will also follow the narrative of Baseman’s Jewish ancestry and his upbringing in Los Angeles at a time of rich cultural and social change. This beautifully illustrated catalogue follows the structure of the exhibition and brings to it a wealth of material to present a comprehensive survey of Baseman’s work across all media including his early editorial illustration work, his character-based paintings; his animation, film, and photography; his coveted limited-production sculptures and vinyl toys, and the personal collections of objects and ephemera that inspire him.