Hello Kitty 45th Anniversary Group Show
Corey Helford Gallery, Los Angeles
through August 3
Written by Genie Davis
Long has the Corey Helford Gallery held exhibitions that celebrated the pop art aesthetic. Perhaps none shines more brightly – with glittery images, sculptures and cotton-candy-colors – than the Hello Kitty 45th Anniversary Group Show. Created in partnership with Hello Kitty’s parent company, Sanrio, the main gallery exhibition included over 100 artists culled worldwide.
The exhibition offers literal interpretations of the Hello Kitty designs. The show riffs on it, offers sculptural pieces that include it, animated images and mixed media works that highlight it. Hello Kitty has plenty of history worth of homage, reinterpretation, and gentle humor. A huge fan base supports Hello Kitty products, and revels in its message of kindness, respect, and friendship. And obviously here, many artists love and are inspired by Kitty.
The exhibit at Corey Helford brought out costumed fans in droves on opening night, making attendees impromptu participants in Hello Kitty performance art. There were prints available for purchase and a stop by from a plushy Hello Kitty herself.
But in the end, of course, the focus was on art and the upbeat, positive, fun elements of the Hello Kitty aesthetic. Some works are whimsical, some are more seriously conceptual, but all are unique, and all are simply pleasurable to take in. In a socio-political age rife with anxiety, it was a welcome brightness.
Armed with only a jaunty bow near her ear, Hello Kitty is so cute she seems to purr. Here, she is glamorous, brilliantly hued, and made to dazzle.
“It’s a Lovely Day” by Pip & Pop is perhaps the perfect piece to represent Kitty. Tiny Hello Kitty images are embedded in this mixed media sculpture, which gives the viewer everything the show and its icon seem to embody: a tactile, confectionary-like look, pastel rainbow colors, sparkles, Hello Kitty figurines, a tiny pink-glazed donut, sprinkles, glitter, gum drops. Created from glitter, resin, crystal beads, modeling clay, polymer, and yes, even sugar itself, this sweet mini-mountain conveys sweetness in all forms.
From Tina Yu, “Miss Kitty” is also a sculptural work using clay, resin, polymer, and crystals. But it is entirely different, a gracefully feminine Hello Kitty “porcelain” doll, featuring demurely crossed legs with little pink bows. But this long-haired girl is also at least part-cat. She has cat ears, a cat nose and lips. She is dressed up with a red bow at her neck and a sparkling-handled Hello Kitty purse. She has both embodied and accepted her feline grace, and is thoroughly reveling in it.
Another favorite was “Hello Kitty Day Dream,” by Dena Seiferling. Using a repurposed bubble gum dispenser as a kind of interstellar bubble of a see-through Hello Kitty head, a felted sculpture within the dispenser of a cheerful blue fish, and a base created from a hand-painted wooden can made to resemble a can of tuna, even the fish Hello Kitty may dream of consuming is happy.
Among the stand-out wall art pieces, Hello by Nate Frizzell is a lovely burst of realism. A stunning white cat with a pink bow below her ear sits patiently on a wooden plank positioned against a lush rolling green meadow as a background. It is more inspired-by the idea of a happy cat than homage to the actual image, refreshingly natural, and beautifully created in oil on canvas.
Synthetic enamel on wood, and the polar-opposite of “Hello” is Okuda San Miguel’s surreal pop “Hello Kitty Skull.” Against a background done in vibrant rainbow shades, a black bird stands in silhouette on Kitty’s head. The head is bisected, half multi-colored and prismatic, while the other side is black and white patterned with stars. One eye is open and dark in classic Kitty style; the eye on the rainbow side is differently shaped and filled with tiny stars – it may be closed in a Kitty wink.
“Risky Kitty” by Risk is a mixed media assemblage that merges an iconic Rolling Stones album cover with Hello Kitty. Red tongue lolling out, this kitty is made from Kandy Car paint, aerosol, and crushed abalone, positioned over a collage of backgrounds: road sign, license plates, and recycled spray can panel. The darker color palette is counteracted by a bevy of butterflies.
Yarn and foam are used to create a woven Hello Kitty in La Belle Epoque’s “Dance with Hello Kitty.” Here, the ultimate textural kitty wears an elaborate floral headpiece along with her jaunty red bow; she’s positioned in a cat-like natural pose, lying down, with a fluffy tutu.
A glittery kitty rides a unicorn in Kristy Bomb’s “Hello Kitty Confection.” A mosaic of mixed media on wood, there are mini Hello Kitty’s, glittery unicorns, and beads among other items within the outlines of both Kitty and unicorn.
There are too many other pieces to mention, but each offers their own sensibility, their own lively take on what is obviously a beloved pop culture phenomena. From black and white pop cartoon images by Albert Reyes in “Hello to the Kitty” in which Hello Kitty is one of many faces depicted – humans and felines, perhaps her fans; to the mixed media on panel “Goodnight Moon” with kitty in queenly robes, by Chris Berens; Hello Kitty fans – and even those barely familiar with the kitty trope, will find plenty to look at and enjoy.