gary baseman

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"It's a crazy, wonderful, exciting time," says Gary Baseman, applying the inarguable observation to his own creative endeavors and to the worlds of entertainment, marketing, art and culture that he bestrides. Baseman, who has established an unmistakable presence in the world of illustration and beyond, recently released his newest toy design, the Dunces, a set of six characters with pointy hats whose poignant occupation is to sit and "think about what they've done." Baseman says the Dunces were "originally an allegory for being a fool for love" and they, like many of Baseman's characters, are at once endearing and discomfiting, and, in their own goofy way they speak of the recurring themes in his work-love, loss and the soft creaminess of our insides in the face of desire. It's a mouthful for the hapless, and mute, toys, but they have even more to say-about the artist's approach to creating toys and art. Baseman spared no expense or effort when it came to producing and particularly packaging the 12-inch figures, 500 of which will be sold (in six versions) encased in large, illustrated, conical boxes. In other words, the toy is as high an expression of his art as any painting or illustration and was executed as such, rather than expedited as a mass product.

Baseman, best known as a top illustrator (his extensive and excellent work was collected in the 2004 book Dumb Luck), has made his mark across many disciplines from fine art to mass culture-in addition to painting and illustration he is behind the visual identity for the best-selling Cranium games, and he created the TV show and feature film Teacher's Pet with Disney. He's now stepping up efforts to bring Brand Baseman to a medium even nearer you. When Baseman says "I want to be a household name," he's smiling but not really kidding. As an artist, he's spearheaded a burgeoning L.A.-based art scene that includes people like Tim Biskup who, like Tristan Eaton (see story opposite) practice what Baseman has coined "pervasive art"-the dedication to creating art without respect for format or medium boundaries, pushing it into more pop cultural areas while maintaining the integrity of the artist's vision. "The goal is to start an art company," says Baseman, to harness his and his L.A. friends' multifaceted art instincts and "create products, create art," from the experimental and expensive to the mass targeted.

Baseman seems well-suited to realize this cultural-artistic world domination plan. After all, the masses have acquired a taste for good design-why shouldn't they warm to fine art if it's presented in such a lovable way? Illustrators are "master visual message makers" says Baseman, and, indeed, he acknowledges his own work is "iconic" and chock full of human truths.

And what better foot soldier, albeit a seated one, than the slow-witted savants of love, the Dunces. "My goal, really, is to blur the lines between all the manufactured boundaries between disciplines and media," says Baseman. "I feel things should be judged between good work and bad."

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