Gary Baseman is an interdisciplinary artist who investigates history, heritage, and the human condition (especially love, longing, and loss). Through unique iconography and fantastical visual narratives that celebrate “the beauty of the bittersweetness of life,” his work brings together the worlds of popular culture and fine art.
Gary Baseman (b. 1960) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California when lifestyles dramatically shifted and politics and popular culture seeped into the home. The influence of media and Hollywood, blended with LA’s influential art scene, led to how Baseman would perceive and produce art. Baseman witnessed how artists challenged traditional art practices and crossed boundaries, and would later coin the term “Pervasive Art” to reflect his multifaceted creative output much like his predecessors and admired artists Walt Disney and Andy Warhol who also resisted the confines of media, styles, purposes, and audiences. Baseman transforms everyday observations and experiences into art that includes drawing, painting, photography, video, installation art, performance, as well as fashion, toy design and social media.
Baseman was the first American-born child of four to Ben and Naomi Baseman, both Holocaust survivors originally from Eastern Poland (now Ukraine). His parents believed strongly in the American Dream, and instilled in their son democratic ideals, using their right to vote, unionize, and advocate for issues that resonated with them. Having experienced horrific history, they encouraged their son to show empathy and compassion for others, as well as be true to oneself. Baseman graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in Communications, inspired by the First Amendment (which protects free speech, religion, press, assembly, right to petition), and developed into an effective visual problem-solver and message-maker.
From 1986–1996, Baseman lived and worked in New York, producing massive amounts of ads and editorial campaigns for international publishers and corporate clients (The New Yorker, TIME, and Rolling Stone; Nike, Gatorade, Levi’s, and Mercedes-Benz). Baseman broadened his artistic practice in the late 1990s, designing the visual identity for the best-selling board game CRANIUM, and creating the ABC/Disney animation series Teacher’s Pet that garnered several Emmy and BAFTA awards.
Character development became a major trait of his work, and includes such characters as Toby (the best friend and keeper of secrets), Dumb Luck (who holds his own lucky rabbit’s foot), ChouChou (who takes away negative energy and hate), Ahwroo (who craves love and affection), and Blackie the Cat (who has a healing, meditative triple purr). Through deceptively cute characters, often set in otherworldly landscapes, Baseman’s work challenges viewers to reflect on and make meaning of life’s challenges and triumphs.
Long motivated to engage in dialogue about art-making and visual culture, Baseman is a frequent speaker at international conferences on multi/interdisciplinary art and visual communication. Baseman is a recipient of the Fulbright and the Sundance New Frontier Lab fellowships. Recent projects include collaborations with COACH, Dr. Martens, and Lladro; and a documentary film Mythical Creatures about his family heritage. The career retrospective The Door is Always Open showcased in Los Angeles, Taipei, and Shanghai (2013-2015). Baseman’s fine art has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States, as well as in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.