selected reviews of the work and projects of Jason Robert Bell listed from most recent-
WET - New York Post
Mirror, Mirror, Postmasters - Artslant by Michelle Levy
Greatest Artist in The World - israeliphotographyasart.com
Joey Reynolds Show - WOR Radio (40 min. long mp3)
Interview with Qi Peng - Examiner.com
Jason Robert Bell: The Unreasoning Mask - New City - Dan Gunn
Jason Robert Bell: The Unreasoning Mask - Flavorpill - Karsten Lund
In Dialogue with Cain, Abel, and Seth- Paul Nudd, Scott Wolniak, and Chris Uphues
Wear during orange alert blog Artist of Week - Online Interview with Jason Behrends
U. Santa María realiza charla con creador de "Robot Cavernícola" - La Tercera (spainish)
Bad Spock Drawings - The Artist's Magazine
Thomas Robertello Gallery - Justin Sondak
Return of the Masters - Rebecca White
Artslant - Yaelle Amir
Bad Spock Drawings - Drawn!
New Haven Register -Judy Birke
Art New England - by Lois Goglia
The Caveman Robot within Each of Us - Hank Hoffman
The Live Wire - Robert Cooper
Tetragrammatron: 10 years of Art - Greg Cook
Village Voice Coice Best of 2006 -
Interview by James Bedell re: ACMR- for The Mac Theater Group
Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical - shabot6000.com
Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical - Adam McGovern
Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical - Time Out New York
Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical - Martin Denton
Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical - New York Times
Kala -The Bridge - Greg Cook
Trashsures- Washington Post - Jessica Dawson
A Feast Unknown! - Andy Propst
A Feast Unknown! - Kelly McAllister
Caveman Robot- Jack Kirby Collector - Adam McGovern
Holy Frankenstein! - Martin Denton
Caveman Robot -Oddball Comics - Scott Shaw!
Kala- New City - Michael Workman
Kala- at scope, Artnet.com - Walter Robinson
"Mystical Outlaw Rebel Baaddaasss Drawings": Bell's latest series of vigorously bold semi-autobiographical drawings are harsh and fascinating, incorporating everything from salt to wine stains. Through Oct. 15 at Thomas Robertello Gallery, 27 N. Morgan St., 812-345-1886; thomasrobertello.com
If you find yourself in the West Loop at some point over the next month make sure to stop by Thomas Robertello Gallery at 939 W. Randolph and check out the collaborative video by Brooklyn-based artists Jason Robert Bell and Marni Kotak playing continuously in their storefront window today through September 6. The video, titled "Double Face Fantasy" (named after John and Yoko's final record, Double Fantasy) shows the faces of a pair of lovers performing a narcissistic-yet-romantic duet. Presented as a moving diptych, each artist finger paints the other's face, revealing a self-portrait of the painter. Using the application of paint to uncover flesh, the lovers find themselves quite literally emerging through the eyes of their soulmate. Romantic, huh? The press release says the video is best viewed from the sidewalk after dark, so go there after a dinner date at The Publican or Blackbird or somewhere and you may just seal the deal.
* Jason Robert Bell and Marni Kotak's "Turtlecove: The New Game for Tomorrow, Today" -- performed at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. -- features two turtles ostensibly battling for their honor. Lessing promises that it's nothing PETA would object to.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com
A Portrait of a Portrait of a Portrait
by Michelle Levy
Feeling defiantly fringe-ish in the gallery, Jason Robert Bell’s “metaphysical portraits” are garish psychedelic depictions of human souls. Created frenetically with chalk, charcoal, oil stick and watercolor washes, these deformed apparitions, have a curiously endearing human quality to them.
Jason Robert Bell/Thomas Robertello Gallery
“The Unreasoning Mask: New Revelations in Figurative Metaphysics” is the mouthful of a title for Jason Robert Bell’s exhibition of painting and sculpture at Thomas Robertello Gallery. The small canvases that ring the room contain single totemic figures. The mythic protagonists are a techno-colored mishmash of cultural references including African masks, esoteric mysticism, art history, Disney, Willy Wonka and heavy metal. Encased beneath a layer of thick resin and depicted in otherworldly colors, the characters appear invulnerable. Usually alone in their foggy landscapes and adorned with flourishes of sparkling sand and metallic paint, the cavemen, fairies, cyclops or chimera are monumental despite their size. While the paintings themselves are alluring, the apparent invincibility of their characters and the perfection of the imagined world make it hard to relate to them beyond their superficial painted quality. This is most evident when comparing them to the nearby sculptures. While as totemic as the paintings, they are much smaller in scale, making them more toy-like than god-like. The painted paper and foamcore creatures fit in with Bell’s other creations but also recall Mexican and folk art traditions of sculpture. Bell’s work is an emblem of an information age where cultural symbols can be recombined at will into endless fantasyscapes that are only useful to the extent that they reflect our own terrain.
- Dan Gunn
Since Jason Robert Bell's last exhibition in Chicago — heroic-feeling paintings of his yeti-like alter-ego — the Brooklyn-based artist has both miniaturized and stretched out cosmically. His new work comprises an enigmatic rogues' gallery of small portraits, which look like religious icons from an arcane universe or little gods trapped in amber. Blending the bounty of his imagination with mythological and religious references, Bell paints strange beings in lush color and encases them in layers of shiny epoxy amid swirling metallic pigments. This is fantastical stuff that might fall flat in lesser hands, but Bell gives it a playful, vibrant sense of life, further enhanced by each painting's enticing gem-like presence. Six impish knee-high sculptures fill out the show.
– Karsten Lund
U. Santa María realiza charla con creador de "robot cavernícola"
El artista estadounidense Jason Bell, graduado de Master en Bellas Artes de la Universidad de Yale, contó su experiencia en el marco del Ciclo de Charlas organizado por el Departamento de Informática de la casa de estudios.
28/09/2008 - 17:38
Todo comenzó porque una amiga le comentó a Jason Bell que los hombres parecían unos robots cavernícolas. Y él, como broma, le hizo un dibujo de un robot cavernícola que luego dio origen a Caveman Robot. La idea fue tomando fuerza hasta transformarse en un comic, pasando por la pintura, juguetería y el teatro a través de una obra musical presentada en Broadway.
A lo largo de doce años de trabajo, este proyecto ha logrado desenvolverse en diferentes áreas del arte, como el dibujo, la música, el teatro, la pintura y los comics. Su creador, Jason Bell, explicó este proyecto en la Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, invitado por el Departamento de Informática, donde señaló que “es una idea que fue creciendo por sí misma. Caveman Robot tomó fuerza principalmente, porque la gente que trabaja en él lo hace con gusto. En mi caso, lo hago porque me entretengo y porque hace feliz a mucha gente”.
Durante la exposición, Bell mostró todas las caras de Caveman Robot, desde sus incursiones en el papel hasta su disfraz a tamaño escala. Además resaltó la importancia de utilizar la tecnología como herramienta para el arte, señalando que “la tecnología es una herramienta. El pincel es una herramienta. Y el computador es un pincel increíble donde puedes experimentar colores e ideas mucho más rápido que en el papel. El computador ayuda a hacer las cosas mejor y más rápido”.
Actualmente Jason Bell se encuentra en la etapa de darle movimiento a Caveman Robot, buscando la forma más idónea de lograrlo. “Muchos me han dicho que envíe todo a Taiwán o China para que lo hagan, pero yo prefiero hacerlo con mis manos. Siempre he trabajado con gente que hace cosas por sí mismas, y esta no será una excepción. La animación de Caveman Robot la haremos en conjunto a nuestra manera, como todo el proyecto desde su nacimiento”.
Exhibitions sometimes veer into more sophisticated territory. Jason Robert Bell's "Kala Series" of paintings depicted a shockingly monstrous yet beautiful female hominid in poses both alluring and frightening. Adam Ekberg's 2007 "Lesser Deities" photographs found hints of spiritual transcendence in seemingly ordinary interior and exterior scenes. (see link above for full write up)
A Look at the Alcove Gallery
While the Alcove is possibly the smallest gallery space in Chelsea, it is difficult to overlook. Occupying a tiny quiet hallway nuzzled between galleries and frame shops, the Alcove emerges as a unique and ambitious exhibition space. Upon only a few feet of wall space, the gallery founder Gwendolyn Skaggs, managed to hang two reasonably comprehensive shows by the artists Chris O’Connor and Jason Robert Bell. This space cleverly demonstrates that it is possible to organize an intriguing exhibition with only minimal wall space, some paint, and a few nails. - Yaelle Amir
Bad Spock Drawings: To Badly Go…
This is either the most brilliant idea for a blog, or a sure sign that all the good ideas are taken. Bad Spock Drawings invites artists to do their worst to everyone’s favourite Vulcan Starfleet officer. Check the criteria for what qualifies as a bad Spock drawing. My favourite item from the criteria is a toss-up between “Sloppy, as if a chimp with metal hooks for hands dipped them in ink” and “Not Spock with a beard; that is Evil Spock from the Dark Mirror Universe!” Bad Spock Drawings is courtesy of Jason Robert Bell
New Haven Register
Paintings at Ely House reveal eclectic artist's true colors
Judy Birke 01/06/2007
In "Why I am an Artist," one of his drawings on display at the 10-year retrospective of his work at the John Slade Ely House Jason Robert Bell writes that "art is a cruel master, the muse often ripping away her beauty to reveal a satanic monster of fear." He adds that it is also "pure escapist fodder that allows the doer to leave this mortal coil for a few seconds and live in the world of ideas and myth."
And indeed, the artist is true to his words.
"Tetragrammatron," is a curious amalgam of Bell's work. Part fantasy, part social critique, part legendary spirit, part contemporary commerce, this hybrid installation of works that range from monumental paintings and drawings to tiny sculptures and photographs, takes one on a wild journey of disturbing expression and excellent painting.
The exhibit includes many variations based on Bell's numerous interests, and unless you're equipped with a program guide, it's a bit difficult to harness the concepts, connections, directions and boundaries of the artist's breathless and unruly approach to his subject matter in which trash becomes treasure and pulp fiction (comic books) assumes the ultimate form of expression.
There's the "Caveman Robot" series, in which sculptures, drawings, comic books, photographs of performance pieces, express various states of frenzied activity, the hybrid hero, part prehistoric, part high-tech, flailing about in the modern world, contending with our vanities and mimicking our conceits in chaotic narratives laced with both an apocalyptic edge and demonic good cheer. As if to reiterate the contemporary desire for wide public address, Bell creates some "artifacts" of commerce from his wacky inventions, comic pages, including a certificate for membership in the Caveman Robot Super Club and a commemorative plate, most objects individually packaged and marketed for sale, it seems, from the artist's private warehouse of never-ending comic-inspired themes.
In the "Trashures" series, an interactive project created from 2002 to the present, seen here in photo documentation, Bell leaves a network of abandoned hand-made sculptural objects within city streets, the goal to observe and reveal ordinary people's interaction with them. In addition to the documented images, the presentation includes a few sculptural pieces that have not yet been designated for their trashure missions, like "Ape of God, Undeployed Trashure" and "Proposal for the Freedom Tower 1:7000 to Scale, Undeployed Trashure," the latter composed of a mess of objects sculpted from random detritus.
The most interesting series of pieces in the exhibit is the "Kala" series. Like the Caveman Robot series, this group of works is also based on the theme of the noble beast, this time a mythic folk heroine. Kala, a gigantic, dreadlocked mythic fur-covered yeti woman of monumental scale, with bare breasts and behind, roams the earth, threatened and threatening, confronted and confrontational, brutal and brutalized, addressing and chaos and conflict and human brutality.
Never mind all the nonsense and the narrative, the mysteries and the myths, the impossibilities and the absurdities, when all is said and done, here is where we find Bell at his best, a beautiful painter who is first and foremost an artist who really knows how to paint. In the end, the personal demons, the angry images, and the frenzied activity matter less than the wonderful explosion of riotous color that seems to glow with an almost radioactive force, and the rich gestural brushstrokes that pound with a palpable tension, tough, garish and urgent.
Bell has a master of fine arts degree from Yale University. The guest curator at the Ely House for the show is Susan Classen-Sullivan, director of the Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery at Manchester Community College.
Jason Robert Bell: Tetragrammatron, 10 years of Art by Lois Goglia
Art New England, April/May, 2007, page 30
John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art, New Haven , CT.
Jason Robert Bell has a mind that never, ever rest. It is overpopulated with action figures, comic strip characters, mythic monsters, and a panoply of eccentric creatures. Besides traditional art materials, Bell uses a junkyard full of found materials. His excessively prolific, unedited, unending stream of consciousness imagery is grist for his artwork, which can seem somewhat self-indulgent and obsessive. That Bell paintings, comic books, assemblages, drawings, and photographs give their audiences deep belly laughs is one saving grace. That Bell has dexterous painting and drawing skills is another.
In spite of this happy chaos of art objects in Bellís exhibition, his work can be lossely categorized into four sections. An 8-foot silver robot in a Barney outfit, an over-sized bat at his feet, is the first character that greets all visitors. Caveman Robotís chamber walls are furnished with Caveman Robot comic strips, drawings, and photographs that document his interactions in real world social settings. In public situations, Caveman Robot has doubled as a costume Bell has worn for photo ops. Caveman Robotís presence set the stage for the rest of this off-the-wall exhibition. Kala a fiery, female dreadlocked gorilla with huge drooping breast and sky blue fingernails dominates the female aspect of this exhibition. Kala, in large bold colored paintings, rages, plays the harp, and fights mythic battles.
Tetragrammatron, Bell's title for this exhibition, refers to the artistís complicated religious zeitgeist. The long Greek name that references a four-sided triangle gives his exhibition an air of importance. Bellí s art is grist for a mind: His theories, his characters, and his explanation of artís purpose are fun to speculate about.
The Caveman Robot within each of us by Hank Hoffman
John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art
Jason Robert Bell: Tetragrammatron
Step inside the stately John Slade Ely House and glance to the right. There stands the imposing figure of Caveman Robot. And I can't but wonder: Is the gleeful crazed grin on Caveman Robot's face symbolic of Jason Robert Bell's disdain for the pretensions of the high art world?
The 10-year retrospective Tetragrammatron, which was previously shown at Manchester Community College, offers an over-caffeinated comic book sensibility. Bell, working in an abundance of media, piles rampant lo-cult images one on top of the other. The walls are hung with large paintings but also lots of drawings and comic art pages. Scattered throughout the various rooms are abstract found object sculptures Bell calls "Trashures."
With a slightly different set of circumstances, Bell might have been an untutored "outsider artist," churning up a prodigious output for his own amusement and nothing more. According to his artist biography, he was "blessed with dyslexia" and "had the proverbial youth as an economically disenfranchised and misunderstood, yet talented outcast." But apparently Bell made the right impression on the right people. He got into and graduated from an arts high school in his native Houston, obtained a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from the Yale University School of Art.
And he's painting furry Yeti women, constructing Caveman Robots and leaving Trashures on sidewalks.
It's not hard to see the appeal for Bell of Caveman Robot and Kala, Bell's rampaging and dreadlocked female Sasquatch. Both creations are noble savages, rooted in—but transcending—the primitive. Caveman Robot has the metallic, constructed body and the taillight-red eyes but he wears an animal fur and carries a big wooden club. Kala is big and naked; she attacks SUV's but also plays the harp. Then there's Bell, with his serious academic training and his love of comic books—"Lucifer in Reality" features blatant swipes from comics great Jack Kirby—and restless energy.
Caveman Robot is the joint creation of Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger. The character has been featured in Bell's self-published comic books (which can be perused at the exhibition). Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical, with Bell in the role of Caveman Robot, has been performed at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn, New York. There are photos of the performance on display at the Ely House. From the looks of them, the show has something of a Dada-meets-Rocky Horror vibe.
The imagery in the Kala paintings is raw and laced with comic book anger: bared teeth, flaring nostrils, violence. But at the same time, Bell evinces an exceptional affection for the materiality of paint and the emotional power of color. In the Kala works "Roar and "Kala Meets the Sun" and the non-Kala "Zeus Pater," Bell applies paint to the canvas with gleeful abandon. For "Kala Meets the Sun," painted this year, Bell used spray paint, acrylics and epoxy as well as oils to imbue the figure with a full measure of nobility. Paint is loaded onto the canvas of "Zeus Pater," painted more than a decade ago. Smeared colors swirl together and form miniature landscapes. There is recognizable, if cartoony, imagery in this work. But "Zeus Pater" is better appreciated for its elements of abstraction.
Bell often paints Kala raging in defense of a natural world under assault. In "Deer Death Man and Man Death Deer," two large canvases hung side by side, she confronts a hunter who has just killed a deer. As with many of Bell's paintings and drawings, there's a bit of folk artist in his approach. His depiction of the hunter is somewhat stiff. It's as though the academy-trained artist is at war with the primitive and the works represent an uneasy truce. "Kala Meets the Sun" is one of the more effective paintings in part because there is a fluidity to the rendering of her figure that is absent in many of his other works. It makes me wonder if in "Deer Death Man" Bell just didn't take the time to breathe life into the figure of the hunter. His output is prodigious but it would benefit tremendously by an emphasis on greater naturalism in his figures.
An anarchic sense of humor is found in such items as "Unicorn Turds for sell on Ebay." A pile of almonds painted with glitter is accompanied by a large lo-resolution digital image of the aforementioned magic feces. "Daily Back-Ups" presents 50 self-portraits. The punchline? They are all painted with oils on floppy discs. (And Bell did so in 1997, when floppys were still useful.)
Then there are the Trashures. Bell makes spiky found object sculptures and installs—or "deploys"—them in public places. The Trashures shown at the Ely House are "undeployed." According to his Web site, the Trashures project began as a way to rid his studio of unfinished projects that were taking up space. But Bell became intrigued by the conceptual possibilities of the Trashures. As he writes on his Web site:
"In the end these pieces are really about the shock of context. The Trashsures are objects that within a gallery would be objects to be look at and judged for aesthetic value. When placed on the street they are objects that foster confusion. Every person that passes them has to choose what they are a piece of trash or a treasure."
With his artwork, Bell himself straddles the subjective line of trash versus treasure. He does so with considerable skill and self-awareness. Tetragrammatron is a notable and enjoyable show, not the least because it manages to take artmaking seriously without making "Serious Art."
Tetragrammatron Invades the NewSpace Gallery
The Live Wire, Manchester Community College Newspaper
Volume 23, Issue 3, November 17, 2OO6
By Robert Cooper
The Hans Weiss Newspace Art Gallery was alive with an assortment of creatures, robots, and sculptures courtesy of artist Jason Robert Bell and his exhibit titled "Tetragrammatron," which opened Oct. 26. The event was a 10-year- retrospective of his work combining elements of mythology, religion, and societal issues. Bell said the word "tetragrammatron" comes
from the middle ages and is a secret name for God in Greek. "I heard the word, and it just became my favorite word," Bell said. The exhibit was a foray into a fantasy world, featuring an intense visual barrage of interesting places, characters, and concepts. The two stars of the exhibit were Caveman Robot and Kala. Caveman Robot appeared in many different interpretations that were put together by Bell and his friends, including a seven-foot-tall life-sized version. Bell said the inspiration for Caveman Robot came from a female friend who was upset with men. "She told me that there were no good men," Bell said, "because they were all Caveman Robots." Kala is a mythical hairy, female creature, who if she were fully dressed, would be wearing a C-
cup bra. She is featured in several paintings. Bell borrowed the name from two sources: the name of the ape that adopted the fictional Tarzan, and the Indian word "Kali," who is the Goddess of Death. Kala was born, Bell said, from "the idea of trying to make a monster beautiful." One painting titled "Klansman (two views) homage to Guston," features a Ku Klux Klan member with a Swastika on his arm, a confederate flag behind him, holding a rope in one hand and a gasoline can in the other, and a miniature Klansman in the center. The painting is an homage to the late Jewish artist Philip Guston, whose work included Klan members in a cartoonish manner. Bell said that, growing up, his teachers would always tell him his paintings looked like Guston's and that he should do
something different. "Guston painted the Klan and made them look silly and funny," Bell said. "I'm from Texas, and I wanted to paint the Klan as I see them, which is evil and monsters." Bell, who has an M.F.A from Yale University, said he has been an artist from the time he was born. "The first word I spoke was crayon," Bell said jokingly. Art runs in the family, Bell said. His father was a sign painter, and his mother was, in Bell's words, "an amateur hippie painter." Robert Bell, Jason's father was on hand for the opening, said he was terribly impressed by his son's art. "I really like the way he does eyes, and expressions," Robert Bell said. Angie Sokolowski, who attended the opening with her friend Carolyn Zemantic, said Bell's art is "absolutely amazing and mind blowing, the art is so intense." Zemantic said she liked Kala, and all the different media Bell uses. Shamiq-Amir Muhammad, a student and also president of MCC's Muslim Student Association, said he was very impressed with Bell's work as well as the caliber of events put on by the gallery and associate professor and art director Susan Classen-Sullivan.
"For it being a community college, this school has an extensive art program," Muhammad said. Andrew Klein, also a student and artist, agreed. "I went to New York for a trip with MCC," said Klein, "and I got more out of this than the galleries in SOHO and Chelsea."
Tetragrammatron: 10 years of Art, Newspace Gallery, Manchester, CT - Catalouge Essay
The Pantheon of the Skeptic or Jason Robert Bell's Big Ideas by Greg Cook
Four years ago, I received in the mail a slim book called "Fruition." Inside, the Brooklyn artist Jason Robert Bell announced 36 proposals for "What I would do if I had Unlimited Time, Money, and Resources." He imagined heroic feats of endurance, colossal sculptures, daring philosophical gymnastics. One plan called for constructing a 900-foot-long humanoid skeleton that would appear to be the remains of God; the idea being that when it was "discovered" it would confound true believers and skeptics alike.
On one hand, it's a grandiose plan to break believers of what he sees as their mistaken faith by inventing a contrary myth so big and, well, legendary that they will be stunned straight. On the other hand it would offer "evidence" of God's existence. It's such contrary ideas that lay at the heart of Bell's work. He's an artist who relishes America's faith-based capitalist hokum, while simultaneously trying to pull the wool from over our eyes. He's a joker and a skeptic who dreams of Superman and Bigfoot. "It's interesting that people want there to be a Bigfoot," the 34-year-old says. "Is there really a Bigfoot? Probably not. But wouldn't it be cool if there was? Wouldn't that be a better world to live in?"
Bell laid the foundation of his work of the past decade with two projects that reflect methods he frequently employs: setting up formal exercises or cataloging his interests. After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago (where he and I became friends) in 1995, he practiced depicting physical space in his "Anyscapes" (1996-'97) by printing hundreds of copies of the same generic landscape and drawing boaters, Amazons, books and caves into it. "The Notes" (1997-'98), quick sketches surrounded by floods of diaristic writing, are a Rosetta Stone of his inspirations and obsessions: unrequited love, the occult, Superman, alchemy, Aesop's fables, Frankenstein's Monster, golems, Ingmar Bergman films, B. Kliban comics.
In a series of work begun while Bell was earning his master of fine arts at Yale (2000), he catalogued the faiths, fables and mumbo jumbo people have marshaled throughout history to make sense of the universe. Always lurking underneath were ruminations on the artist as Creator. Among the results were his 14-foot by 7-foot "Birth of the World" painting and a corresponding sculpture (c. 2001/2002) that map his mash-up of several belief systems, ranging from Norse mythology, as he found it in comic books, to his own made-up pantheon.
Several projects toy with the idea of making magic manifest. Bell plumbed the line between side show stunts and miracles in "The Garden," a 2002 Brooklyn performance with his close friend Doug Young, involving stilt walking, balancing unwieldy things on his chin, and simulated walking on water. Bell's "Unicorn Turds" (2005), which he tried to sell on eBay until the online auctioneer rejected them, purport to be proof of the existence of the mythic steeds. Laboratory examination would reveal these, uh, sculptures to be cat poop, glitter and glue, but, as the "official" webpage insists, "this happens because Scientists are notorious 'Unbelievers' and their reactionary negative energy destroys any actual magic upon examination!"
Bell's recent work has centered on three major series: "Trashsures," "Caveman Robot" and "Kala." The "Trashsures," begun in 2002, are sculptures assembled from random detritus and Bell's false starts that he abandons on the sidewalks of New York. The first, "The Orphan," was an inflatable Chilly Willy doll that he painted and taped a "kick me" sign on its back. Bell's artworks are typically representational narratives, but these pieces are frequently abstract nonsequitors. They've included a doll perched on a car jack, a guitar on a pedestal, an egg-like lump on a wheeled stand, a curled skateboard spiked with nails, a faux bear trap with its chain running into the cave of a tiny styrofoam mountain. By turns menacing and forlorn, they look like something a kook slapped together in his cellar. Mixing artistry and crudeness, Bell aimed to provoke disconcerting visionary experiences for passersby, who were left to make heads or tails of the stuff.
The ever growing body of "Caveman Robot" art -- drawings , comic books, toy-sculptures and musical -- relate the adventures of a noble savage adrift (and battling supervillains) in our modern world. The character, a tossed-off joke of his pal Shoshanna Weinberger, combines two deeply resonant pulp archetypes: the prehistoric man unsullied by modernity and the futuristic machine. Since Cavey's appearance in 1995, the series has taken on an increasingly campy humor a la the '60s "Batman" television series.
While Caveman Robot tends toward entertainment, the giant "Kala" paintings and drawings, begun in 2003, are a more serious (though sometimes absurd) engagement of the noble savage theme. (Bell explores this subject again in his 2005 illustrations and DVD of Philip José Farmer's novel "A Feast Unknown.") These blunt pulpy paintings depict Kala, a giant dreadlocked yeti-woman, with bare breasts and behind, wandering primeval swamps and forests - or maybe just the wild wastes bordering contemporary suburbs. A cross between Tarzan and King Kong, Kala is Bell's most complex and sympathetic character, a lonely brute, an outcast from nature and society, threatened by them both. There is an awkward tenderness when she takes an odd orphan girl under her wing and startling violence when she's confronted by the SUV-driving "World of Man." What sets her apart from Bell's other lumbering titans is her vulnerability, and raw sexuality, attributes that make her by turns easier to empathize with and more unsettling.
In 2003, Bell decided to leave a "Trashsure" resembling a planetary model in New York's Grand Central Station. Everyone he told of his plan warned that as he installed the sculpture someone would likely shoot him in the name of national security. "Is not Art worth dying for?" Bell thought. It went off without incident, but it suggests the stakes Bell is playing for. His art is not about everyday concerns; it's about cosmic questions, about religion and myth, about transcending this dreary world by imagining a mythic life based on heroic ideals - even when he's pulling your leg.
"Art should be about the big impossible mythological things you'll never experience," he tells me. "Art is the realm of monsters and gods because that's probably the only place they exist. Most of us are never going to experience an angel except in a painting."
Village Voice Coice Best of 2006
Best Reason For Theater Haters To Buy Season Tickets - Brick Theater by Silke Tudor
Once an auto shop, the Brick Theater pursues its thespian dream with blue-collar chutzpah. The facade is a matte-black garage door; the lobby is a street corner; the owners are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They program festivals, peddle tickets, hand out pieces of foam when the seats are sold out, and serve up cans of beer from a picnic cooler during intermission. The programming at this beloved black-box theater is similarly egalitarian and unpretentious. Adventures of Caveman Robot, a multimedia production based on Jason Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger's indie comic about a Jungian warrior–teddy bear, gets the same attention and support as The Pragmatists, a challenging work by early-20th-century theatrical theorist Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. A recent season included The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam, a comedic staging of Dean Cameron's online hoax, which followed a nine-month correspondence between a "Nigerian widow" and Cameron himself, posing as a slightly addled, sexually confused Florida millionaire; The Kung-Fu Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde's classic comedy souped up with live-action kung-fu sequences, late-'80s-MTV stage lighting, and an occasional glam-metal score; and Die Hard: The Puppet Musical, an elaborate production brought to life by a slightly psychotic bald man with a song in his heart and a cast of sock puppets that spray blood and expose cleavage. While the premises of some Brick programs sound like jokes generated from a good bong hit, the shows are impeccably executed, frequently ingenious, and usually hilarious. And given that the price of admission is rarely more than a movie ticket, there's no good excuse to miss another season.
Theater review by Adam McGovern
If you are looking for the future of the Broadway musical, you'll grow old looking for it if you hang around the theater district. Brooklyn, that still-combustible cultural laboratory, is where all the best things involving emotional excess and people busting out in song (for no reason) have hatched in recent years. Take for example these recent productions--Reed & Wilson's "Time Rocker," or Laurie Anderson's "Moby-Dick."
Since it has worked is for exiled pop stars, so it does for the even lowlier realm of comic books. Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical" is a revelatory romp through the pulp-culture id.
Based on the indie comic created by Jason Robert Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger, the musical concerns the storybook savior for whom the show is named--a strange cyborg lifeform conjured from intergalactic space-junk found by a shamanic tribe at the dawn of history.
Later excavated and "adopted" by the benevolent scientific shamans of the Tutlewell Institute, he now protects the utopian city of Monumenta from a group of evildoers whose motives are classically murky, but center around an envy of his self-made success and selfless citizenship.
The cast of "Adventures of
Caveman Robot: The Musical "
From this simple premise the show's score collages a theatrical Cadillac from the pop-culture junkheap that includes glammy anthems, patriotic hymns, Gilbert & Sullivan set pieces and throat-shredding "Les Mis"-style power ballads accompanying calculated lyrical overkill. With a matching book of cleverly observed (and wickedly sabotaged) narrative conventions, the performance travels assuredly through a hundred years of musical comedy without ever showing off its knowledge at the expense of the entertainment. Make that several millennia, since the lead character's primal origins occasion several ritualistic interludes that are awe-inspiring in both their accuracy and absurdity.
True to a concept that has already been a comic, a toy line, and the subject of short films (if not yet a dessert topping), the show's production draws from equally diverse sources. A soothing/chilling computer persona acts as building security and mechanical Greek chorus at the Tuttlewell complex on suspended video screens while a period-scratchy faux government newsreel supplies exposition on Caveman Robot's colorful past in a monumental back-projection.
Meanwhile, when a villain's giant hands menace our hero, you see the two guys who've run out from the wings to work the things on sticks; the precision apoplexy of Robin Reed is on full display as she stands behind an evil penguin with a transplanted Nazi brain, working the threadbare dummy and despotically declaiming its lines. Fitting for a musical about an automated marvel, the piece diagrams the mechanics of theater itself before our eyes, matching high-tech effects with highschool-pageant props for a hilarious ingenuity and fourth-wall-busting wit.
The story's ensemble of stereotypes is brought to life by an expert cast whose fearlessness at making fools of themselves morphs into a compelling kind of earnestness. True to the overstatement being homaged, superlatives are hard to avoid, but standouts among the eight actors playing 24 characters are Reed as the Nazi waterfowl; Chris Harcum as the humiliation artist Loser Pete; Ian W. Hill as the deranged parallel-universe ex-president Ape Lincoln; Devon Hawks Ludlow as a pompous professor surgically attached to his teacup (the smoking ban has put all pipes out to pasture); and Hope Cartelli as Megan, the nerd with a heart of gold and secret will of iron.
You won't find a better send-up of comics' aesthetic excess and eroticized conflict than the showstopper where Cartelli belts out an ode to her city's champion while donning a robot-valkyrie get-up to join the fray; a kind of dysfunctional striptease that's all about putting ever more stuff on. But as with every other flavor in the play's feast of farce, the encyclopedic knowledge underlying the critique is what keeps it authentic and essentially affectionate.
Composer Debby Schwartz and writer/director Jeff Lewonczyk have built the better musical. If you care about our theatrical values, do your duty and speed to the scene.
Adventures of Caveman Robot- Time Out New York - —Josselyn Simpson
IT’S ALIVE Ludlow, right, stops Cavey in his tracks., Watching Adventures of Caveman Robot is like listening to a good friend tell a genuinely funny joke—very, very badly. You pray the enterprise will succeed, but it keeps getting in its own way. The title’s superhero began life in a comic book and became a cult favorite; now, played by Jason Robert Bell, he lives in the city of Monumenta and saves its citizens daily, helped by the noble scientists at the Tuttlewell Corporation. But a group of villains weird enough for the 1960s TV series Batman want to destroy “Cavey,” and very nearly succeed.
This could all be great fun in the tradition of satirical late-night serials like The Continuing Adventures of Dick Danger. But this sketch-cum-rock-musical only intermittently attains the required energy and snappy tone. Several segments simply don’t work theatrically—such as one in which a character time-travels back to the prehistoric era, where everyone grunts at each other for several minutes. (Like many scenes, this might work better at half the length.) Still, there are worthy jokes and some terrific performances. Cartelli, as a plucky scientist, has impeccable comic timing and a beautiful voice—she makes the wacky torch song “His Robot Queen” utterly convincing. And Ludlow, as two different mad scientists, displays a collection of behavioral quirks worthy of Inspector Clouseau. Still, if you decide to attend Caveman Robot, you’ll want to ensure that you’re well lubricated first.
Martin Denton · April 13, 2006
Just about every time I go to the Brick, that hotbed of theatrical energy on the fringe of Williamsburg, I get blasted out of my seat by the impressive talent in the house. Adventures of Caveman Robot, an almost preposterously ambitious new musical by Jeffrey Lewonczyk and Debby Schwartz, based on the comic book character created by Jason Robert Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger, is no exception. Here, for example, you will see Ian W. Hill, one of indie theatre's most versatile performers, rap something called "The Gorillasburg Address" while dressed in a gorilla suit and a big top hat (he plays, among other characters, a villainous primate named Ape Lincoln); you'll also enjoy Hill teaming up with terrific clown Devon Hawks Ludlow as a pair of bizarre mad scientists who happen to be brothers—they rip through their hilarious material as if they'd been working together as a comedy duo for decades. And Kevin Draine, Jorge Cordova, and Robin Reed parade around in costume designer Julianne Kroboth's wildly imaginative creations as a sextet of wacky, off-kilter super-villains: a former teen idol-turned-pyromaniac called Burn-Out, a strange effete French master hypnotist named Simon Says, an S&M-ish sexpot with freakish bionic arms known as Mistress Svetlana, and others just as kooky.
Not everything in Caveman Robot works, but you have to admire the immensity of its vision and the sincerity of its exuberant desire to entertain. Lewonczyk, who not only has written the book and collaborated on the lyrics but is also the director, co-producer, and an unbilled actor (on video) for this extravaganza (full disclosure: he's also a sometime contributor to nytheatre.com), has taken on the colossal job of writing and staging an original multimedia musical about a comic book character that very few people have ever heard of. That last bit is important: one of the most impressive things about Lewonczyk's well-crafted libretto is the deft way it doles out a great deal of exposition, easily bringing the uninitiated in the audience (such as myself) completely up to speed about the back story of Caveman Robot, the paradoxical union of primitive homo sapiens and futuristic high-tech who is the lovable hero of the show.
I'll try to lay the thing out for you briefly: Caveman Robot is the resident super-hero of the city of Monumenta, a place not unlike our own home town though in a seemingly alternate universe (the plot references, for example, a super-genius named John Zarathustra, D.D.S. as being president in the 1980s; Zarathustra will turn out to be Caveman Robot's arch nemesis). Caveman Robot is indeed a caveman who somehow (I confess I didn't quite get all the intricacies of how this was accomplished; don't try it at home) has been kept alive for millennia thanks to a life-giving dodecahedron, some kind of futuristic scientific whatsit that is maintained by Tuttlewell Laboratories. Professor Tuttlewell and his niece Megan (she reminded me of Velma from Scooby Doo, but much brainier) are Cavey's caretakers and best friends; Megan, it appears, would like to be even more than that.
Okay, so everything is hunky-dory in Monumenta except that all the various arch-villains in town hate that they are constantly being foiled by the super-powerful, super-sincere Cavey. Someone else hates Cavey, too: Loser Pete, a sad-sack little guy whose every step forward in life seems to be impeded by Caveman Robot; as he confides in "Loser's Pete's Song," a clever music-video parody that is the most effective musical number in the show, he's lost his apartment, his girlfriends, and his job to (inadvertent) incidents brought on by Cavey's crime-fighting.
Enter Edison and Franklin Park, two ultra-brilliant scientists who are brothers; Franklin is, also, quite insane. The two are working for an as-yet undisclosed third party and are recruiting all of Monumenta's bad guys to form a team that is originally supposed to be called the Terrible Ten but eventually has to be scaled back to the Nefarious Nine when Ape Lincoln refuses to join. This assemblage of bizarro baddies rivals anything the folks at the Batman or Marvel Comics franchises ever dreamed up: I've told you about Burn-Out, Simon Says, and Mistress Svetlana, and now I'll add to the list a Nazi whose brain has been transplanted into the body of a penguin, a man whose voice is so loud that even if he whispers he can knock down entire buildings with the impact, and a fellow called Mr. Tense who can deflect bullets from his body because he's so, well, tense.
So the Park brothers bring all these nasties together and devise a can't-miss plan to defeat and destroy Caveman Robot once and for all. Will they succeed? Will Megan be able to save her beloved Cavey? Will Loser Pete side with the bad guys, or will he see the light? These and other questions are, indeed, answered as Adventures of Caveman Robot wends its way through 19 scenes and two acts of hokey but heartfelt dialogue, songs, dances, and pow-bam-zonk fight sequences.
Much of the play is quite funny, especially as realized by Kroboth's zany costumes and the skillful cast; for example, a recurring joke in which Edison Park consistently forgets Loser Pete's name is put over masterfully by Hill and Chris Harcum (as the hapless Pete). The songs are uneven; I wondered how necessary they finally were to the piece, which is more of a "fightsical" (to borrow the name of a budding genre being developed by folks like Tim Haskell and the Vampire Cowboys) than a musical: the signature "numbers" of the show are elaborate live-action fight sequences rather than traditional song-and-dance turns. To that end, Caveman Robot would undeniably benefit from the talents of a fight director like Haskell or Qui Nguyen—someone who could really provide the stylish, polished choreography that these pivotal climactic segments require and deserve.
Multimedia consists of video projected on three different screens, including some really lovely abstract bits that represent Mater Vox, the sophisticated computer operating system controlling Cavey's wiring at Tuttlewell Labs; this is all impressively well-executed, which sometimes jars with the delightfully imaginative but decidedely low-tech aesthetic of the costumes and other staging elements. There are in fact three different attitudes seemingly at play in Caveman Robot: a neatly realized high-tech approach; a wacky, downtown-y "let's put on a show" energy; and the sweetly parodic but never campy sincerity of the story itself, which presumably comes from Caveman Robot's creator, Jason Robert Bell. These three concepts don't always mesh smoothly.
Bell, by the way, takes the title role as the super-hero he created originally for the comics; he's a charmer as the towering, aluminum-coated lug, offering a bona fide star turn in a show brimming with indie theatre stars. The only other cast member I haven't mentioned thus far is Hope Cartelli, who plays Megan with the requisite pluck and repressed sexiness; she only has one big number in the show ("His Robot Queen") and she gives it her all.
Adventures of Caveman Robot is fun and ingratiating. Lewonczyk tells us in his director's note in the program that the company has had a "heck of a time doing it," and so all we need to do is we relax and have a heck of a time enjoying it.
'Adventures of Caveman Robot': Superheroics With a Neanderthal Twist
By GEORGE HUNKA
New York Times Published: April 15, 2006
American movies have long received a shot in the arm from comic books. From "Spider-Man" to "V for Vendetta," they have gotten a jolt of energy from not only the characters of comics but also from their dark imaginings. Is it possible that the same inspiration will fire a new energy in the American theater?
My crystal ball says no, not if Jeff Lewonczyk and Debby Schwartz's "Adventures of Caveman Robot: The Musical" — jointly produced by The Brick and Piper McKenzie Productions — is any indication. A frenetic, disappointing musical with doggerel lyrics set to tuneless music, Mr. Lewonczyk and Ms. Schwartz's work strives to deliver a winking, knowing valentine to the genre, somewhere between homage and parody, and ends up a very loud and long (more than two and a half hours) mess.
The complicated but dopey plot has something to do with Caveman Robot, a mechanical superhero "with the ancient sense of primeval man driving him," according to the program, who expresses himself in monosyllables and grunts (and prayers to Oolar, a shamanistic goddess). Mr. Robot, to use an honorific he doesn't really deserve — it's hard to say just what he does that makes him the good guy — finds himself the target of an evil supergenius named Dr. Zarathustra and a bunch of malcontents, including two decidedly mad scientists. Mr. Robot's friends include a scientist and his niece, who seems to have a fetish for organic-metal compounds.
The cast is energetic and game, with Ian W. Hill and Devon Hawks Ludlow much more than that, though some of its musical abilities are theoretical at best. As for the physical production, the wizardry of the video presentations meshes uneasily with the more slapdash live-action production values. It's unclear whether this is intentional or even relevant. Whatever the case, Oolar save us all from other shows like this.
*Please note that Hunka calls his blog: Superfluities: unnecessary thoughts from an unimportant man
Greg Cook, The Bridge #16
It took me a while to make up my mind about Jason Robert Bell's 'Kala' series, which was most recently represented in Chicago at the NOVA Young Art Fair in late April and as 'Untamed Beauty: Kala Versus the World of Men' at Suitable gallery last November, because the paintings and drawings of the adventures of his lady-sasquatch are simultaneously ugly and beautiful, awkward and graceful, sophomoric and profound. Watching the series grow in Bell's Brooklyn studio over the past three years, I've come to believe these are crazy, remarkable works -- and a great deal of their greatness lies in this nagging bipolarity. I keep thinking about them.
Bell's 'Kala' series draws us in by aping pulp and comic book styles, tapping their raw, charismatic, kinetic zing. Here is Kala fighting a giant eagle to swipe an egg for the feral girl she's taken into her protection. Here the behemoth battles a troop of 'sportsmen,' tricked out in the latest newfangled gear, sure to despoil the wilderness. Here she fucks an awestruck, bearded naturalist. Here she snatches a fish from a muddy primordial stream or forlornly plays a harp concocted from a tree and hair and spit or something. And right there is the ludicrous joke of my friend's project -- think 'Bambi' as a musical starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in drag and you're in the neighborhood -- but Bell is joking on the square. He asks why we as a society are still so uncomfortable with powerful, independent women? Why do we mass produce pop whore-heroines outfitted in action-lingerie that leaves just enough to the imagination to evade the censors? Why does the exotic so turn us on? Why is our love of nature so often expressed by driving over it, shooting it, fencing it off, drilling it, chopping it, paving it, polluting it? These are ultimately paintings about morality.
Bell's Kala is Beauty and the Beast rolled into one big, hairy woman-thing with a pig nose and bare breasts and behind. (R. Crumb eat your heart out.) As such, Bell takes the pretty refinement of classical nudes, really the whole Western cannon, (especially Gauguin's sultry, exotic 'savages') and shouts it's all just tits and ass. You squirm because you can't turn her messy seminudity into a classical ideal in safe white marble. Would she just throw a shirt on?
Kala runs around a lost Eden, erected out of the swooning landscapes of the Hudson River School (who themselves were expressing longing for a wild America they feared was being lost) by way of 'One Million Years B.C.' (You know, that 1966 cinema classic with cavebabe Raquel Welch in an animal-hide bikini.) This fear of nature being despoiled is a great American tradition, just ask Thoreau. But Bell undercuts it by making it mock-operatic, and mates it with our parallel traditional heebie-jeebies about what lurks in the woods, which in the American vein goes back at least to the Pilgrims and has made millions for Stephen King.
Bell's technique too teases us with a mix of straight-on skill and lunkhead wise cracks. These are serious paintings full of deft painterly passages a la the New York Action Painters or Bay Area Figuratives. And they are of the scale and ambition of such Abstract Expressionist works too -- which stole the idea from 19th century history painting. You have to be in their presence to really get them. In reproduction they shrivel up into clumsy illustrations. But in the same room, like Kala, they wallop you over the head with their brute physicality.
Then you're stopped short by the purposely ham-handed gags: A diptych shows Kala clocking a coffee-toting, G.I. Joe deer hunter from two different angles. The stream in one painting and Kala's tears in another are executed in clear epoxy, making the paintings' construction all too literal, a visual pun. But whatever Bell gets up to formally, his narrative keeps asserting itself -- Kala refuses to quiet down for such erudite considerations as the way the slathered on acid green resolves into leaves. Just like in a fairy tale we side with the tenderhearted Beast, feel sorry for her, root for her to defeat the superficial jerks of Progress, but in the end we still sorta wish she (and the paintings too) would make it easy for us and turn into a beautiful, cleaned-up young princess -- not stay a Shrek. Bell dares us to love this uncouth, unflinching imperfection.
Bell's artwork has often been about the odysseys of lumbering titans and ancient gods, (male) creatures built as big and as brawny and as ambitious as he is. Here, telling the tale of a beastly woman, Bell speaks of an awkward and ultimately isolating strength and bulk and intelligence and of the resulting melancholy struggle to find one's place in the world. He speaks about vulnerability. And in doing so, he plumbs something more deeply human.
By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, August 4, 2005; Page C01
At JET, artist Jason Robert Bell raises some boundary issues of his own. He stationed a curious sculpture -- I confess I thought it was a child's toy -- just outside the gallery as part of his ongoing "Trashures Project," which aims to defy distinctions between public and private.
Jason Robert Bell’s A Feast Unknown is playing various "double-bills" throughout The Moral Values Festival. Billed as "an experimental film/dramatic multi-media reading of the infamous book by Philip José Farmer", Bell’s work is easily one of the most disturbing, and strangely exciting 30 minutes I’ve had in the theater in a long time.
While snippets of Farmer’s book – an imagined backstory to the Tarzan story in which Farmer recasts the ape man as a "hyper-sexual uber man", are heard through a purposefully static-ridden sound system, Bell’s video – a blend of animation and still images – plays. Bell’s artwork begins with what look to be black and white inkblots under which volcanoes of yellows and blues erupt. As Bell’s story turns to the hero’s parentage –he might be the son of Jack the Ripper – Bell’s art turns to grotesque facial images and abstractions that take on an almost nightmarish quality that shakes the mind even as it intrigues the eye.
Portions of "Feast" are performed throughout the Festival – always ending in a cliff-hanger. In this "episode", the audience was left with the piece’s hero late in life in Africa after a raid on his home by outraged African tribesmen. (As the story moves from Victorian England to late 1960s Africa, Bell’s artwork/video becomes infused with warmer colors, images more easily identifiable, but even an abstraction of a lion or the profile of a dog howling in pain/anger invoke a macabre fascination). Even as I’m unsure as to whether I could emotionally endure more than 30-minutes of "Feast" at any given moment, I’d be curious to see how all of "Feast" plays when put back-to-back. I know that I will hunt out more of Bell’s work.
reviewed by Kelly McAllister
A Feast Unknown
A Feast Unknown is a multimedia presentation—emphasis on the media—and a great example of compelling experimental theatre. The piece is based on a famous sci-fi novel from the sixties that retells the stories of both Tarzan and Doc Savage. In the story, both Tarzan and Doc Savage live in a world run by a cabal of baddies known as “The Nine”—and both heroes have dark secrets. For example, it’s put forth that Tarzan may be the son of Jack the Ripper.
Each performance of A Feast Unknown is scheduled to be a 30-minute segment of the book. The entire novel will be presented in serialized fashion, from start to finish, with each reading starting with a wrap-up of the last segment and ending with a cliffhanger.
This is a strange, interesting story—a revisionist take on two classic adventure stories set in a dark world. It is also very adult, and you should think twice before bringing anyone under 16 to this show.
It’s more of an art film than a traditional piece of theatre. The narration is full of audio effects—distortions of voices, atmospheric music and sounds—that set the mood perfectly. As the story is narrated, slides of artwork by Jason Robert Bell—who conceived, produced, and pretty much did everything else related to this piece—are shown on a screen. At first, it seems like a slide show of Rorschach ink blots, but as the story progresses, more and more colors enter the drawings; then crude animations based on those drawings begin to pop up. The end result is a phantasmagoric nightmare landscape sure to give audience members plenty to think about— perhaps even a bad dream or two.
I attended the first performance, which covered the Tarzan part of the story—at least the part I saw did. There were some technical difficulties, and the show had to stop about 20 minutes into the performance. What I saw, however, was fascinating and entertaining—it made me want to read the book the piece is based on. If the rest of the piece is as good as what I saw, this is definitely a show worth the trip to Brooklyn.
Jack Kirby Collector #42
Down to a Science
The engine of a well-oiled DIY multimedia machine, Jason Robert Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger’s Caveman Robot is the unlikely leading man (so to speak) of a comic, a CD, animations, public performances and a basement merchandising empire. Forged in a high-concept collision of genres gone wild, the leopard-skinned mechanical marvel offers a little something for everyone in his Gigantic Mega Annual 2004 (including the three cleverly interwoven Kirby Klues that caused his creators to hand us a copy and which you’d rather read it to find for yourself). In this issue alone there’s backstage circus melodrama, campy super-hero struggles, outer-space sci-fi and oblique prehistoric pageneantry in made-up lost languages. Visit www.cavemanrobot.com and join the phenomenon on page or stage- Caveman Robot is all over the place, but it’s well put together.
The Hell Festival
Martin Denton · July 26, 2004
Plumbing the depths of this academic territory for our entertainment and edification is the Reverend Jason Robert Bell, M.F.A, in his multimedia presentation Lucifer is Jesus or Holy Frankenstein!: A History of God, Hell, and Other Gnostic Flaptrap. Bell attacks religious hypocrisy with a hip disdain, citing etymological origins of Underworld buzzwords, and threading events and themes together as he progresses through the history of Evil as a concept. Meanwhile, a screen center-stage silently flickers with a continuous hodge-podge of demonic film clips. The intelligent Reverend Bell makes a humorous and persuasive attempt to uproot the idea of damnation, but the speech eventually takes on a classroom feel. The subject is fascinating, but the presentation lacks enough tension to sustain a theatre piece. Bell’s talking points rarely correlate with the projected images on-screen, and a duel for attention emerges between man and media. It is an unfair battle: the screen has the advantages of center-stage placement and perpetual, dancing light, whereas Bell, lit only by the dim glow of his reading lamp, restricts himself to the lectern off to the side. If the lectern and screen were reversed, and the attention-pulling film clips used sparingly, the real star of the show—Bell’s witty delivery—would have its rightful focus.
What new Oddball Comic combines the Oddest aspects of the primitive prehistoric past and the far-flung future --and also represents one of the very Oddest new funnybook published during this past year? Why, it's the CAVEMAN ROBOT GIGANTIC MEGA-ANNUAL 2004, "a collection of exciting illustrated adventure stories" that's "a favorite of laymen and royalty!" -- with special guest "super criminal", Ape Lincoln! Who says that comics have to be old to be Oddball?
Created by Jason Robert Bell and Shoshanna Weinberger, "Caveman Robot" is the star of (in Oddball Comics' opinion, at least) - the single Oddest all-new Oddball Comic of 2004. Published by Tetragrammatron Press' "Supreme Leader" Jason Robert Bell in a limited, numbered edition of only one thousand copies, the wraparound-covered, square-bound, black-and-white, 94-page (cover-priced at a piddling $4.00!) CAVEMAN ROBOT GIGANTIC MEGA-ANNUAL 2004 - which is dedicated to author Philip José Farmer -- introduced Caveman Robot to a trembling world. Designed and edited by Britton Walters, this independent anthology features the fur-wearing automaton in a wide variety of adventures executed in radically different thematic approaches, emotional tones and art-styles.
Fans of the "Caveman Robot" comic written and drawn by Britton Walters, Shoshanna Weinberger, Joe Infurnari and Jason Robert Bell, will want to check out the project by the Brooklyn-based Bell at Suitable Gallery in Wicker Park. Bell became friends with Suitable owner Scott Wolniak during his studies at the Art Institute and they kept in touch afterward. "He kept sending us these sculptures after he moved away," recalls Wolniak, "he'd just slap postage directly on the sculpture, these things he'd made out of office supplies at his job and mailed them to us." No longer a tech consultant, Bell now teaches at a school in Pennsylvania and "helps people move things in his truck" when he's not making art.
For his show "Kala versus the World of Men" at Suitable, Bell made charcoal drawings eight feet high that cover all of the available wall space in the garage where Wolniak exhibits art. "The only wall that's not used is the garage door," says Wolniak. The finished works are fifty-four feet in length and illustrate the epic fantasy adventures of a female Sasquatch named Kala, her daughter Eve and their battles with "a group of gun-toting Hummer-driving Sportsmen." Kala's a sight to behold, a dark figure with huge fangs, a shock of long, dark hair and distended nipples who's somehow simultaneously affable and monstrous. But it's her battle with the forces of an aggressive, normative culture of "sportsmen" that results in the strangely satisfying destruction of the men's Hummer. Who will ultimately survive this confrontation between the violence-prone realists and the lovable but grotesque fantasy creatures? Visitors will have to find out for themselves in the pages of Bell's wall-sized story.
Also at Scope, a big painting of a hunting scene from the life of an apelike cave-woman by Yale MFA Jason Robert Bell at Cristine Wang, titled in Neanderthal grunts, Death Deer Man (2004).
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