Since its inaugural opening in March of 2012 the walls of the Mondo Gallery in Austin, Texas have been home to exhibitions featuring screen printed posters of time honored and contemporary films from ‘Star Wars’ to classic horror to all things Disney. The gallery has since evolved to include vinyl soundtrack releases, toys, and apparel and now Mondo can add one more addition — original art.
The upcoming exhibit ‘Originals: A Fine Art Show‘ is exactly what the name implies. A group show of original pieces is not unusual in the art world, but Mondo is an unusual gallery. This will be the gallery’s first foray into property free content — no movie or comic book characters. No pop culture.
The biggest thrill to this upcoming event are the names attached — Kevin Tong, Mike Mitchell, Todd Slater, Ken Taylor and so many more. These are illustrators in the classic sense. They are commercial illustrators whose work is born from someone else’s concepts and ideas. For ‘Originals’ the audience will get to see what these artists are capable of when given free reign. The list of names also gives the audience a peek at the artists Mondo have been paying attention to, waiting for the perfect opportunity to get share their work in the gallery.
To better understand how the show came about I chatted with one of Mondo’s art directors, Mitch Putnam. Our interview along with a glimpse of the works from the upcoming exhibit follows below.
ETDC: There are some really interesting inclusions on the list of contributing artists — Kevin Tong isn’t someone I expect to see an original from outside of a sketch that was used in a digital piece, but I’m incredibly excited to see what he does. Did you have to convince any of the digital / print artists to play along with the show, or was everyone on board once you mentioned ‘Mondo gallery show’?
MP: With very few exceptions, everyone was on board. I think that many of the artists we work with are used to taking commercial work and illustrating for existing intellectual property, but they also have a real love for drawing and painting their own creations. This idea feels somewhat foreign for Mondo, but the majority of these artists are already at home in the fine art gallery setting.
I see a lot of names that haven’t been a part of a Mondo show before — have a lot of these strictly fine art artists been on your list as potentials for a gallery show? Are there plans to see any of the new faces the Mondo pop culture shows?
I try to make sure that the list of artists we work with evolves with every show. I spend a lot of time on blogs and Instagram looking for new artists that will fit within the Mondo aesthetic. I also attend conventions and shows, allowing me to see the work up close.
We were able to approach folks that don’t normally participate in pop culture shows this time around, and hopefully we can find a place for them in the future. But this really is one of the most exciting lists I’ve ever curated, without a doubt.
There’s been a steady path to this show. From the original yet pop culture work of Jason Edmiston‘s ‘Eyes Without a Face’ show at the gallery in April of 2015 to the original concept of Sonny Day’s ‘Mind Intern’ event in July, a pure fine art show seemed to be the end goal. How long has this been talked about at Mondo? Was it only a matter of finding the time to do in the gallery? Is Mondo moving towards a traditional fine art gallery, or is this a one off thing?
I think fine art is something that we’ve always been interested in exploring further, and it probably just took time for the gallery to mature to this point. Mondo has changed a lot in the past year, encouraging more creative freedom internally and allowing us to take more risks.
We finally felt comfortable enough to try out a show completely devoid of pop culture because we are now confident that we have the audience and sales to support something new. We will never be a traditional fine art gallery, but I think you can expect a much more exciting mix of subject matter in the future.
With the two shows mentioned, ‘Eyes’ and ‘Mind Intern,’ have the Mondo fans been open to originals and these non-print / pop culture events? Is that something Mondo is concerned with?
Audience reception is always a concern, for sure. But we’ve luckily cultivated a really incredible fanbase, and it’s one that is open to new ideas, new artists, and new mediums. Our fans are the fucking best, we couldn’t be more grateful.
Were the artists sending in roughs or pitching you their ideas for approval? Did your role deviate from the ‘Artistic Director’ role to more a curator or were you asking for changes?
Actually, the way we work on art shows is very different from the way we work on posters. With posters, we traditionally go through a pretty formal process starting with a rough sketch and moving toward final imagery, all with art direction involved.
When working on a gallery show, especially one without pop culture and studio approvals, the artists are basically free to create on their own. I provide advice on subject matter, framing, pricing, etc., but it’s just advice. The process is laid back and leads to a more personal piece of art, at least I think.
I saw prints mentioned — how did you choose which pieces would get prints? I know Kilian Eng prefers giclee prints as his form of ‘original’ work, was that the same for the other folks who ended up doing prints?
Honestly, we’re not doing a ton of prints. There are some artists that prefer to sell prints, and we’ve done our best to accommodate that, but the vast majority of the show will be original, one-of-a-kind work.