Gary Panter is ready for his close-up. In addition to a mini-retrospective at Clementine Gallery — the gallery’s last show — the Oklahoma-born, Brooklyn-based artist has a solo show up through August 31 at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., and a massive new 700-page monograph published by PictureBox in April.
A creator whose work comfortably straddles the worlds of painting, commercial art, illustration, cartoons, underground comix, and music, Panter tackles all of his projects with visionary punk panache. He first gained attention for his “ratty line” drawing style, which graced the pages of Los Angeles’s Slash magazine in the ’70s, record covers for Frank Zappa and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and his own underground comix, such as The Asshole. His character Jimbo, a punk everyman who resembles a post-apocalyptic caveman, debuted in Slash and later appeared in Art Spiegelman and Francoise Moulys influential RAW magazine, launched in 1980. By then Panter had gained enough street cred to last a lifetime, but he didn’t stop there, branching instead into television. Younger fans may know him best for his work as head set designer on the playfully surreal children’s television program Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
At Clementine, Panter has transformed the space by painting the two longest walls of the main room black and creating, in white chalk, an immersive stream-of-consciousness scene combining such zany elements as women toting guns, robots, cute kittens, a flying walrus, imaginary cities, and a cloud with a knife through it. Hung on these walls are vivid paintings from the ’80s and ’90s including Coming Ashore (1989), which features a one-headed creature that looks like it’s creating a tsunami, and an untitled work from 1991 with an array of thickly outlined cartoon figures in Panter’s jagged style on a striped background. Another untitled work from 1989 has a large head ensnared in a noose, possibly a nod to the notorious EC horror comics of the 1950s, such as Tales from the Crypt.
Hung salon-style in the back room is a large selection of works on paper, many of which appeared in printed form in projects like Panter’s RAW one-shot book Invasion of the Elvis Zombies, or Facetasm, a collaboration with Charles Burns. On the opposite wall is a collection of found objects and ephemera that have inspired Panter. Standout items include a “Benign Girl” super telephone toy, a poster for “Space Princess, A Futuristic Musical,” and an advertisement for a Dress Me Clown. You have one more weekend to check out Panter’s world. Don’t miss it.
Here are Gary Panter’s recommendations for New York this weekend:
1. Yinka Shonibare: Prospero's Monsters, through May 17, and Tabaimo, closed April 12, both at James Cohan Gallery
"Tabaimo's projected animation installation was a very nice use of the medium; it was lighthearted yet ominous and cleansing. When I went back to the gallery Tabaimo had closed and the Yinka Shonibare show was up. Very different feeling. Cold, rich, analytical, courtly, empty. Nice clothes. A ship model seemed comfortable in its case, making the freestanding sculptural displays seem to want glass cases too."
2. Whiting Tennis at Derek Eller, through May 10
"These paintings of architectural abstractions of shacks and reduced sculptural forms in similar configurations recall Ben Shann surfaces: flat, nice, rich, stately."
3. Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum, through July 13
"This is right over the hill from me. I have to get over there to observe the collision of corporate and market with artistic and shamanistic practices on a grand scale in a public space, but haven’t made it yet."
4. Dargerism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger at the American Folk Art Museum, through September 21
"I haven’t seen the Darger show at the American Folk Art Museum yet either. It features work by my Texan pals Trenton Doyle Hancock and Robyn O'Neil, and Darger is an honorary Texan for being so crazy. Wild wide landscapes with nasty things hiding in the candy-colored bullrushes."