The University Art Museum (UAM) at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) has organized a major new exhibition titled “Gabe Bartalos: Abhorrence and Obsession.” The exhibit opens this week with the opening reception set for Saturday, Sept. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the UAM.
Bartalos is a prosthetic effects artist who specializes in creature design and explicit gore, explained Christopher Scoates, director of the UAM. In 2004, Bartalos made his directorial debut with the surrealistic film “Skinned Deep,” which he wrote and produced.
The exhibition showcases more than 20 years of Bartalos’ special effects work, including eight works from Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster” cycle and numerous works from such horror classics as “Brain Damage” (1998), “Frankenhooker” (1990), “Basket Case 2” (1990) and “Basket Case 3” (1992) among others.
The exhibit represents the artist’s first show in a museum context and expands the UAM’s interest in blurring the boundaries between the visual arts, film and popular culture.
“For more than 20 years, Bartalos has broken new ground and created constantly evolving character and sets--part set design, part art installation--that tie the psychology of emotional responses to the visual effects of the moving image,” Scoates said. “He ventures into unexplored territory and opens up a new dialogue that pushes us to rethink our ideas about visual effects and character design in relation to film, the visual arts and the film audience.”
When visitors approach the UAM’s front door for the exhibit, Scoates believes they will realize quickly that they are entering a different kind of space. The show opens with “The Loughton Candidate” from “Cremaster 4”—a tap-dancing, red-haired satyr with the body of a man and the face of a goat, dressed in a white Edwardian suit.
Also on display, he added, will be a full-sized “Zombie Horse” from “Cremaster 3,” described as an extraordinary tour de force of prosthetic special-effects make-up, featuring Bartalos’ transformation of full-size horses into rotting carcasses galloping around the race track.
Bartalos is excited and privileged to see his work featured at the UAM. “I remember attending the Brian Eno exhibit a few years back and thought it was organized very well,” he said. “Chris Scoates handled it very well; he has a great sense of taste,” Bartalos said. “I’m very glad that I’ve worked closely with him on designing the show.”
One of the artist’s goals is to have fun. He said he is fortunate to work in film, but he also get jobs in the art world, in still photography and from private clients for installations. Being able to work in all of these types of media makes what he does really fun and breaks up repetition. He hopes that by showing that it can be done, it will inspire young students and artists to go for it.”
Even more important, however, Bartalos hopes visitors come away with an appreciation for the art behind the gore.
“I hope viewers get the sense that, even if it is a severed head flying through the air covered in blood, there was an artist behind it who cares about it,” he said. “If blood and gore are used, I don’t disguise it. I do it to communicate to the audience that we’re in a visceral moment and a life-threatening situation with consequences.
“I hope that they notice that a bloody stump is anatomically sculpted and there was care taken in crafting it. At the exhibit, I hope they walk up to the different pieces and take a close look at the extreme detail to see what makes something believable,’ he continued. “I hope they see that the exhibit is a celebration of the arts and sculpture.”
After the opening reception, the artist will appear at CSULB’s Carpenter Performing Art Center in a conversation with artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney. The event starts at 8 p.m. Admission to the center event is $15 for general admission and $50 for VIP reserved seating and a private reception. The pair will explore the role of special effects in such films as Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle” (1995-2002). The exhibit closes Dec. 8.
Because the exhibit overlaps Halloween, the UAM worked with the Long Beach Cinematheque to organize a “zombie walk” in conjunction with a series of horror films leading up to Halloween.
“There is something here for students, something here for adults and something here for art historians,” Scoates pointed out.
For information on operating hours, admission costs and the location of the UAM, visit the CSULB University Art Museum website.