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At 'Small Gift Los Angeles,' artists say Hello Kitty

November 10, 2010 |  7:30 am


Eric Joyner's  "Hello Topiary," above, is not (excuse the pun) a garden-variety landscape. The oil-on-wood painting, which depicts a robot gardener shaping hedges into Hello Kitty and other designs from the Japanese character factory Sanrio, goes on display at "Small Gift Los Angeles" from Nov. 12 to 21 at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.

NOUAR 600 Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sanrio, the event will include food trucks, miniature golf and a pop-up shop. The main draw is an art exhibition with nearly a dozen installation rooms and about 100 pieces by the likes of Paul Frank and Gary Baseman. For crafty types, the Japanese artist Naoshi will be teaching a workshop in how to render Hello Kitty with colored sand.

All of the works feature Sanrio characters and were created for this show.The results are sweet and, in the case of Nouar's acrylic-on-maple-panel "Hello Chicken Dinner," right, surreal.

Nouar's work is $1,200. Joyner's topiary painting is $9,800. Others works start at $200.

The show raises a question as simple as its subject matter: Why?

Most of the participating California-based artists feel a kinship with what show curator Jamie Rivandeneira called the "cute culture community." It is fueled by childhood nostalgia and has a positivity that remains undiminished in an increasingly complicated world.

In Hello Kitty, she added, artists find a muse who is also a blank canvas. 

"She doesn't have any emotions,"  Rivandeneira said. "You can project anything onto her." 

Even, it seems, a coating of Shake 'N Bake. Is that original recipe or extra crispy? Keep reading for more Sanrio-themed works ...


"Hello Kitty can relate to anything," curator Rivandeneira said, citing the example of "Fishy Greetings" bythe artist duo called Kozyndan. "They go diving and take underwater photos of schools of fish, and they took that experience from their lives and incorporated Hello Kitty."



Above, Gary Baseman's "Garden of Sanrio Delights."


Above, a paper-on-wood portrait of the frog known as Keroppi by illustrator and designer Michelle Romo, who is known in character art circles as Crowded Teeth.

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: "Small Gift Los Angeles"