Book Review: The Great Showdowns by Scott Campbell

Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles has become the premiere place for ‘alternative’ artists to showcase their work.  Artist Scott Campbell is no different, and the gallery is where he was discovered by a lot of people, including Neil Patrick Harris, who provides the foreword for this book.  You see, Campbell does watercolors, often involving his favorite movies.  This book is a collection called The Great Showdowns, where Campbell has painted often hilariously simplistic portrayals of classic confrontations in movie history.

Covering an insane range of films, his works include his interpretations of scenes from classic movies like Scarface, Shaun of the Dead, Terminator 2, Anchorman, Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Office Space, Kill Bill, Psycho, They Live, Night of the Living Dead, Alien, Donnie Darko, Point Break, Halloween, King Kong, Die Hard, and Ghostbusters.  That is just a tiny sampling of the films he covers in this collection, an ode to cinema itself, and a strange type of minimalist humor where he breaks down often complicated confrontations into a single panel watercolor painting, where, hilariously enough, everything is smiling.

For instance, for the Die Hard painting, Bruce Willis is facing off against a bunch of smiling shards of glass that are waving at him, to represent his classic walk through glass in the film.  Al Pacino is depicted facing his desk full of cocaine from Scarface, where not only is Al smiling, but the pile of cocaine is smiling back at him.  It’s a strange type of smirking humor that is perfect for fanboys of any ilk.

Neil Patrick Harris explains how he came across the artist, and came to own a portrait of himself facing down himself on a unicorn from the Harold and Kumar movies.  I don’t know that many people would appreciate the humor, or find it all that artistic, especially those that won’t instantly recognize the films he is parodying, but half the joy is discovering what film is being depicted in any given painting, and some border on plain obscure, as far as mainstream filmmaking goes.  But again, this isn’t mainstream New York art (where often, the more abstract, the better), these are fun little water color portraits for movie fans, by a huge movie fan.  Others probably just won’t get it, but for the Alex Pardee art crowd, it’s an instant classic.  Kudos to Titan Books for publishing this smirk-tastic little gem, as it’s certainly not for the mainstream, but well worth taking the chance on to show that not all art is bourgeoisie nonsense that only people in SoHo enjoy.  Some of it is for us, the silly movie fans that like to chortle while flipping through a funny little book of nonsense.

9.0/10

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