Meet the Mind (and Watercolors) Behind ‘Bojack Horseman’s’ Animal People

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Cover illustration by Lisa Hanawalt.

Lisa Hanawalt’s childhood doodles have morphed into one of the most popular, critically-acclaimed smash hits in Hollywood.

The comic artist, illustrator, and published author (most recently of the food-themed art book Hot Dog Taste Test) now serves as Production Designer for Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman.” But she never intended to get into the TV business at all.

The California native hunched over notebooks all through school, doodling animal-human hybrids in patterned sweaters for as long as she can remember, much to the chagrin of her teachers. It was through high school theater that she met Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who would go on to pitch, create, and executive producer the massively successful show about a horse-human who’s past his celebrity prime. Flipping through sketchbooks during downtime at rehearsal, Hanawalt and Bob-Waksberg invented stories for the characters living on each page.

“I found some of my old sketchbooks, and in them I’m basically drawing the same stuff I do today,” she explains, chortling at her own predictability. “There’s cat people, and horse people, and they’re having relationships. I was really into this one character I made up that’s a cat with a guitar, based on Weird Al Yankovic, because I thought he was the coolest person. I wanted to be him. But a cat.”

After attending UCLA for visual art she began to do portraits of people’s pets for $20, or else just a case of beer. It was these portraits that Bob-Waksberg would later staple to his pitch for “Bojack,” eventually steering both his and Hanawalt’s lives in a completely new direction. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.


Selection from Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt.

Hanawalt soon found herself in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, working as an illustrator and cartoonist, writing and illustrating a food column for Lucky Peach magazine, getting her work into such niche publications as The New York Times, and having her first anthology, My Dirty Dumb Eyes, published through Drawn and Quarterly in 2013. She was also a member of an all-female comic’s studioPizza Island: “It was awesome. We didn’t collaborate on anything, but it’s kind of cool to be next to each other and complain about things. About dudes treating us badly. That solidarity.”

“The feeling of space in New York is very different, almost claustrophobic,” she explains. “Being down in the subways is very new to me. It’s very frightening and loud, and I felt a bit trapped. So I immediately made a lot of artwork about the subway, and how nightmarish it can be.”

She wouldn’t have to deal with the train for long thanks to her friend Raphael, who sold his show, and her drawings, to Netflix in 2013, and pleaded with her to come on as Production Designer, bringing her vision to an entire world of televised animal-people. With no animation background whatsoever, she nervously took the job.

“I had to figure out how to adjust my designs a little bit to work better for animation. It’s so different from what I do in my solo work, because every decision I make on this show is going to impact the lives of 40 different people, at least. Actually more like 100, because there’s animators in Korea, too, who work on the show. So if I make complicated patterns on the arms and legs, I’m going to hear it. People are going to be mad at me. Sometimes I do it anyway.”

Hanawalt’s sensibility quickly proved to be exactly what the show needed – every visual gag, every silly t-shirt, or background painting, or poster, or menu – it all comes from her and her team. The subtle wordplay and visual nods to the animal-human hybrid universe of the show are easily one of its best features, and a main talking point in glowing reviews from top publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. 


Selection from Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt.

Some of Hanawalt’s favorite creations in the Bojack universe: “I really like the manatees. I like Sextina Aquafina. The whale strippers. I guess I like the aquatic ones best.” 

In episode 4 of the show’s latest season, a silent short film unfolds underwater, where we see an entirely different habitat for the stars and wannabes of Hollywoo (the show’s name for Hollywood).

“Oh god, that episode was so fun, and I kept trying to cram more stuff in there. I was like, ‘We need a jellyfish lady!’ We only see her briefly, but, man, she’s important.”

Since starting her own Hollywood career, the admittedly anxious artist has been forced again and again out of her comfort zone. In addition to working on the show, she directed, animated, and edited a stunning music video for Tegan and Sara and published Hot Dog Taste Test, a hysterical, absurd, gorgeous collection of some of her favorite pieces.


Selection from Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt.

“The book’s hard to explain if you aren’t looking at it, which I think is true of a lot of my work. It’s like a one woman anthology. There’s a collection of food-related essays and comics, but then you also find comics about birds. And autobiographical work. I think it’s good if you are a funny, silly person who also has feelings.”

Taste Test flips from pages detailing chicken vaginas to raw, emotional confessions about deaths, fears, and embarrassments in Hanawalt’s real life. It’s this combination of goofiness and vulnerability that reminds me so much of Bojack.

Hanawalt gave a talk at the XOXO Festival in Portland in 2015. For someone who’s explained she feels weird talking about herself and her work, it’s perhaps the greatest test of her nerve thus far.

“I was really nervous about doing it, and I didn’t want to. But I’m glad I did because I think it resonated with a lot of people, and their own issues with anxiety and creativity. So I’m happy it helped some people, and made them feel less alone. That’s the problem with anxiety, is it’s very isolating and you feel like a fucking weirdo. But basically everyone I know has panic attacks, so it’s very cathartic to be able to talk about it openly.”

When I ask her about which character she identifies with most on Bojack, she muses, “Maybe a mix of Diane and Princess Carolyn? I am ambitious like them, but Diane can be a little up her own ass, in a way I’m hopefully not.”

Ambitious she certainly is. The artist hopes to direct more music videos, dabble in video game design, and even pen a graphic novel. But she doesn’t link career achievement to personal joy.

“I’m very happy with what I’ve done so far, and there’s other things I want to do, but they’re not things I have to do to be happy. I want to keep working, and I want to make work that people like, and that’s really all I care about. So I don’t care if what I do in the future is hugely popular, or just reaches a few people. I’m just going to keep at it.”

Hot Dog Taste Test is in bookstores now.

Rare Warhol Photographs Made Available Through Artnet Auctions

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In a 2011 BlackBook interview, the now deceased Warhol Superstar Ultra Violet told your author, “Warhol was a chronicler of American history. That was his power, presenting life as it was then, matter-of-fact, as is, with no embellishment.”

Indeed, where the work of Dali (from whom Andy “stole” Ultra Violet as muse) explored the life of the mind, the deepest, strangest recesses of the subconscious, Warhol vividly chronicled the stark but exhilarating reality of the new Nuclear/Media Age. Surely this is why photography was such a crucial medium for him – and why his camera was veritably an extra appendage.




Most thrillingly, then, artnet Auctions has curated the uncomplicatedly titled sale Andy Warhol Photographs. The rare collection is a vivid document of a time (since obliterated by the ubiquity of Instagram banality) when the camera was changing the way we saw society and the world – from the cool composure of Halston to a parked Concorde awaiting its next glamorous journey to a 1982 Gay Pride flyer against the backdrop of a quiet morning street to a revealing self-portrait with an unnamed male model taken that same year. Images of enthusiastic New Wave acolytes Nick Rhodes and Boy George remind how Warhol’s magnetism and influence carried on long beyond the heyday of The Factory.

In one particularly poignant shot, a 1987 calendar sits amongst some Christmas cards on a mantle, an eerie harbinger of mortality. That very year the seemingly invincible artist died suddenly during routine gallbladder surgery.

The auction will carry on through September 14.


Banksy Takes Over Amsterdam

Banksy in Amsterdam
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“If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.” — Banksy

How does a street artist stay relevant for more than 25 years? It’s a particularly important question to ask, as a monumental dual retrospective of Banksy’s work has just taken over two Amsterdam galleries.

Though he first gained attention when his stenciled rats and monkeys began showing up on walls and signs across England in the 90s, he has since proven himself to be a master of mixing social commentary with arresting images. Bluntly anti-war and anti-establishment, Banksy’s work calls out the power and ineffectiveness of governments in confrontational yet often humorous ways. (He once placed a life-sized replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee inside a Disneyland ride.)

His commentaries on middle-class consumerism are as fresh and incisive as ever: “Christ with Shopping Bags,” with a crucified Jesus holding ribbon-wrapped gift boxes, is perhaps his most pointed. And though boldfaced names snap up his work—Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera among them—he can’t resist poking fun at the cult of celebrity (Kate Moss, for instance); though ironically, he’s the only graffiti artist to make Time magazine’s list of The 100 Most Influential People.

Moco Museum Amst.6240 Banksy 3

The girl with the heart-shaped balloon, the British cop brandishing his middle finger, Churchill with a fluorescent green mohawk, a rat with a paintbrush: these iconic Banksy images are now fixtures in the street art lexicon. But not until now have so many of his works—150 prints, paintings, sculptures and original graffiti—been seen together at one time, and never in a museum setting. Indeed, two major Banksy exhibitions simultaneously mounted in Amsterdam, at the Beurs van Berlage and the Modern Contemporary (Moco) Museum, offer the most comprehensive view of the artist’s work to date.

It may seem contradictory that a guerilla street artist would exhibit in such highly curated spaces. Especially since Banksy, whose identity remains unknown, taunted the established art world by illegally hanging his own paintings—a framed image of a woman in a gas mask, a can of tomato soup—in the Louvre, the Tate Modern and the Brooklyn Museum back in the early oughts. But in fact, his graffiti has become so valuable that the images can no longer survive in their original setting: people cut them out of the walls to sell at auction; those that do remain are typically covered in Plexiglas. (The artist himself condemned the 2014 Stealing Banksy exhibition.) And if you consider that many Banksy pieces aren’t executed in spray paint but rather in traditional oil on canvas—though the subjects are just as controversial—perhaps it’s not such a stretch that they’ve been moved indoors.

Moco Museum Amst.5293 kopie Banksy 1

Moco Museum Amst.5656 Banksy 2

At the Moco Museum, Laugh Now is the first Banksy exhibition in such a formal space. It runs concurrently with an Andy Warhol show, and it’s a clever conceit, as the similarities between the two—one the master of street art, the other of pop art—are apparent. Curators have hung Banksy’s Kate Moss portrait near its obvious homage, Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe; a Campbell’s Soup can painting from the 1960s clearly inspired Banksy’s rendition of a Tesco-brand soup can.

The 50-odd Banksy works on two floors include “Tortoise Helmet,” a rare stencil on metal; “Cardinal Sin,” a bust of a man with his face covered in tiles; and several spray-painted rats—on a traffic cone, a bus sign and a chunk of wall. The standout is found on the mezzanine: the eight-foot x four-foot “Forgive Us for Our Trespassing,” a work of spray paint on glass that depicts a young boy praying in front of a graffitied wall. Surrounded by stained-glass windows, the painting takes on a distinctly churchlike aura.

Banksy in Amsterdam 2

The bigger of the two shows, The Art of Banksy, is set in the city’s former stock exchange, Beurs van Berlage, an ornate 19th Century red brick building. Nearly 100 works on are view on the vast lower level; you’re guided through reconstructed London streets by black bootprints (modeled on Banksy’s perhaps?) superimposed on the floor. The show includes two key pieces that established the elusive artist’s reputation: “Flag Wall” and “Media Canvas.” The former is a play on the infamous Iwo Jima flag-raising photo, with children climbing atop an abandoned car; in the latter, a crying girl holds a teddy bear on a bombed-out street as a cameraman dispassionately films the scene. Neither painting has been shown publicly for a decade.

Among the well-known rat and monkey images and still-powerful “Girl with Balloon” prints are several pieces that won’t fail to shock; namely “Barely Legal,” depicting a pregnant Demi Moore from the famous Vanity Fair cover, her face replaced by a smoking “Simpsons”-like character.

And after you’ve toured the exhibit, wouldn’t you know? You will, indeed, have to exit through the gift shop.

James Whiteside Transcends Modern Ballet in New Video

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The foundation for modern ballet has been paved by such greats like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev. Although James Whiteside of the American Ballet Theatre pays a good bit of respect to their work, he feels constricted in this world of contemporary ballet. That’s the basis of his dance, “Foundation.”

The accompanying video features the dancer’s meticulously crafted movements, carrying a strong range of emotion. The performance recites a struggling artist’s cycle of constriction to experimentation to failure to depression to appreciation.

“I feel like dance today is not present in a way that I would like,” Whiteside told us. “And while I do not dance for the audience, I feel like there’s a lack of respect for art in general, essentially ballet right now. We’re working so damn hard because it’s so irrelevant in this world.”

The dance was choreographed by Gemma Bond. The video was directed by Daniel Robinson. It features music by Years & Years with fashion by Andrew Morrison.

Watch James Whiteside in “Foundation” below:

See James Turrell’s Earliest Work Now On View

James Turrell
Stufe, Blue, 1968
view 1
No. 60440

Photographer: Florian Holzherr
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Photography:Florian Holzherr

The Godfather of light and space, James Turrell began his journey in exploring the relationship between form and color back in 1966 after moving into a vacated hotel in Santa Monica, CA.  It was in these abandoned rooms that Turrell began experimenting with high-intensity projectors, using them as a tool to bend the eye’s perception and manipulate a space.  From this trial came Turrell’s first significant installation work of corner projections, using projected light as a medium to create the illusion of free-floating, three dimensional shapes suspended in the corners of a room.  Now on view through PACE Gallery’s 67, 68, 69 exhibition, this first body of work proves that even in his earliest stagesTurrell had the ability to create a transformative phenomenon with his artistic expression.

67, 68, 69 is on view at PACE Gallery on 57th St. through July 29th and simultaneously at PACE Gallery Palo Alto through August 28th.

Art: Carmen Argote’s Life in 2D

Black Chairs
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Architecture defines us. The structures we inhabit, visit, dream about, or even resent constitute an integral element of individual and cultural understanding. Some people spend their lives moving from one place to the next, repeatedly trying to reproduce a sense of “home,” while others inherit family histories through the buildings passed down from one generation to the next. Architecture dictates both how people interact with a space and with each other, and exploring the physical makeup of our environments can often reveal surprising personal and social insights.

Los Angeles-based, Mexican-born artist Carmen Argote grew up visiting her ancestral home, Mansión Magnolia, an 1890s stone manor in Guadalajara owned by her great aunts, and later passed down to her grandmother. The place always existed as a symbol of her family’s desire to return to Mexico permanently. However, in recent years it had been converted from a family dwelling to an events space used for everything from kids’ birthday parties to raves. Argote lived for three months in an office refurnished as a makeshift bedroom, spending her days and nights wandering the mansion recalling her relatives’ stories and questioning the relationships between body and space, ornament and functionality, past and present, understanding these layered relationships through the architecture of the space.

The artist’s previous bodies of work primarily utilize architectural installations and the modification of physical space to examine notions of memory, place, home, and her family’s immigration experience. For her most recent series, Mansión Magnolia, exhibited at Shulamit Nazarian in Los Angeles, Argote’s exploration of space collapsed from three to two dimensions, as this series marks the artist first exhibition dedicated to photography. The fourteen photographs on view depict a space both eerily devoid of human bodies, yet saturated with references to them. Diffused light imbues the rooms with a preternatural glow that allows for superlative detail in tone, texture, and hue. The image compositions reveal Argote’s sculptural background, often highlighting the geometric symmetry of the domestic objects and classical architecture. Through her examination of the space and its contents, Argote creates a visual record of past and present fused in one contradictory moment. The sleek functionality of contemporary objects contrast the detailed craftsmanship of the original building design, illustrating the ways history is understood through texture and form.

The images act as more than mere documentation, however, as the incongruities become apparent between the grand building design and the temporary event rentals. Many objects enter the manor arranged in cuboid structures, a result of their transportation in truck cargo holds. The purely functional configurations transform into modernist sculpture in images such as Black Chairs (2016), in which hundreds of black chairs seem to float and vibrate in the center of a room, both echoing the black and white checkered floor tiles and referencing 20th century readymade art. In Brincolin (2016), the contrasting structures combine to produce a visual pun: a brightly colored inflatable castle sits in the central hall under an ornate chandelier and surrounded by Corinthian columns.

Carmen Argote

Brincolin, 2016

As with the castle lacking children to play on it, the absence of humans becomes a palpable feature connecting all of the photographs. Argote occupied the void created by her missing family members and acted as a kind of ghost: present, but able to move more or less unacknowledged by the staff or guests (once, she even joined a rave wearing nothing but her nightgown!). Always examining the link between her family’s past and Mansión Magnolia’s present, Argote made several photographs in which she attempted to reclaim agency in the space for herself. Through her residency, Argote began to understand the architecture as a place of isolation: the thick, high walls separated its inhabitants from the din of the city. More specifically, the building design effectively confined the women to the house (the female realm) from the street (the male realm). Argote’s photographs act as a way to perform the experience of women bound together by the surrounding walls. Argote utilized the camera’s capability to capture gestural movement in long exposures, producing a painterly effect. The images, which depict a haze of flesh-tone mist floating in empty rooms, act as a way for Argote to evoke the presence of her female relatives while simultaneously infusing the space with the record of her body.

Each component of Argote’s exploration of Mansión Magnolia presents a consideration of her family’s complex characters: a father forced to emigrate from his country, but always yearning to return; a group of sisters and cousins isolated from the outside world by beautifully adorned walls; a young woman attempting to discover what it means to be home. Myth binds Argote’s understanding of her personal history and that of her relatives. Mansión Magnolia was a place of mystery and fantasy for her as a girl. Now, as an adult, Argote’s return complicated her relationship with the mansion and her memory of it. Through her residency, performances, and image making, Argote created a new myth of her own, interwoven with her family’s stories and the strangers that cohabit the space. Integrating past and present, public and private, memory and reality, Mansión Magnolia seeks to find meaning in the innumerable contradictions of contemporary life.

Art Troupe WIFE Brings Spellbinding Performance To LA’s Hammer Museum

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Step inside the world of WIFE and witness a mystical phenomena. Born of three Los Angeles-based dancers, (Jasmine Albuquerque, Kristen Leahy, and Nina McNeely), she is known as A Trinity of Illusory Performance Makers.

WIFE creates an all senses engaged theatrical experience. If you have seen her live you know it’s a full body—and out of body—experience. Through projected body-mapping animations, sculpture, light, self-crafted music, costumes and choreography, WIFE makes the imaginary a reality. Although, when you’re in her performance presence it feels more like a fleeting moment of surreality—an electric alternate reality you want to stay suspended in.



On Wednesday, June 22, WIFE (represented by Maavven) brings her latest creation, Enter The Cave, to Hammer Museum in LA. Loosely based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Enter the Cave is a story of transformation and transcendence told through illusion. The performance is meant to rearrange our notions of reality, space, and time.

The free performance begins in the Hammer Museum Courtyard at 7:30PM PST and can be live streamed, here.

Make Time Last Longer with Scott Thrift’s 24-Hour Gradient Clock

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Scott Thrift “wants to make time last longer”—a daunting task he’s distilled into the more simpler project of designing a 24-hour clock without numbers. Aptly titled, Today, Thrift’s kickstarted pursuit was designed with a stunning color gradient to reflect the changing sky outside during a 24-hour period.

The result “simplifies the day into a perfect balance of dawn, noon, dusk and midnight,” which Thrift promises will take the edge off time. So rather than sitting at your office desk every day, anxiously watching the seconds, minutes and hours pass by, Today highlights the “spectrum of time,” recreating the limitless feeling of watching clouds pass by.

More time is certainly the solution to Monday stress, even if it’s all in your head.



The Tom of Finland House is Now a (NSFW) Coffee Table Book

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Photography: Martyn Thompson

Up in the hills of Los Angeles’ Echo Park stands a shrine to one of the most iconic homoerotic illustrators, Touko Laaksonen, AKA Tom of Finland. Tom House, as it’s known officially, is where Laaksonen lived and worked during the last decade of his life. The Craftsman home is now a multipurpose venue serving as the headquarters of the Tom of Finland Foundation, a shelter for runaway LGBTQ youth, a gallery for outsider art, and a shrine space immortalizing Laaksonen’s legacy and his authentic vision of cult homoerotic sexuality.


Michael Reynolds, a popular New York based Creative Director discovered Tom House in the late ’90s and was instantly captivated. Most recently, he’s partnered with acclaimed writer/editor, Mayer Rus, and celebrated photographer, Martyn Thompson, to collectively capture Tom House into a new Rizzoli-published coffee table art book.  Their idea was to give readers an immersive eye into the private interior world of all the dreams and desires that were—and still are—Tom of Finland.

“Tom House is like a living breathing commune and at the same time it’s this incredible repository of erotic art and gay culture,” Reynolds said. “It’s a gathering place, a safe place, a spiritual experience, an idea. It’s visually breathtaking. I had always thought it would make an amazing book.”


TOM HOUSE: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles (Rizzoli New York) is available now.