At El Segundo’s ESMoA, an exhibit explores the movie worlds of Rick Carter

On a recent afternoon, artist Rick Carter sat on a park bench making a chocolate from a box of See’s Candies.

It wasn’t a park bench. A life-size replica of the iconic Forrest Gump prop was given by the producers to key creatives including Carter, the film’s production designer. “It’s been in my backyard since 1994,” Carter said, “personalized by my experiences as part of the group that made ‘Forrest Gump’ and all the conversations I’ve had with friends about it since.”

The weathered wooden structure is now part of an exhibition at El Segundo’s ESMoA art lab celebrating Carter’s award-winning career – as well as the power of film imagery.

Experience 51: Time, which opened in May and runs through March 25, traverses the production designer’s four decades in Hollywood and his pivotal role in creating the living worlds depicted in Back to the Future, Jurassic Park”, “Forrest Gump”, “Avatar” and “Lincoln”, among others. Carter has received Oscars for production design for the past two years.

White spotlights surrounding the gallery showcase Carter’s sketches and personal memorabilia. There’s a pair of Nike Cortez sneakers like those worn by Tom Hanks (as Gump), Carter’s Jurassic Park crew badge, and a touching note from director Steven Spielberg upon the completion of production on Munich. Carter’s portrait paintings of friends hang from the ceiling on white cubes.

But the ESMoA (formerly the El Segundo Museum of Art) devotes more exhibition space to other artists’ interpretations of characters and themes from its films. The curator of the show, Bernhard Zünkeler, chose eight Artists to produce their own renderings, pencil drawings and paintings fused onto fabric sourced from downtown LA’s Garment District. Together they form a giant collage that lines the gallery walls.

The collage features the work of Alex Garcia, Luke Hayes, Muraji Khalil, Dalila Paola Méndez, Helena Park, Jacori “Aiseborn” Perry, Ivan “Mr Mustart” Petrovsky, Carlos “Kopyeson” Talavera – and Carter. Most of the artists are local and two were featured in a 2014 ESMoA exhibition dedicated to graffiti and tattoo artists. For this show, artists presented their interpretations of iconic props and characters: a blue Na’vi from Avatar, a DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the wise Maz Kanata, introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens . a character inspired by an English teacher at Palisades Charter High School who tutored both the film’s director, JJ Abrams, and Carter — though they were about 17 years apart.

Not a sliver of space is wasted in ESMoA’s narrow gallery, so the impressive 25-foot-tall collage – which brings together all the artists’ work – can feel overwhelming at first. Even the floor is used for cinematic effects; An artist created a “force field,” or directed energy streams, to connect the various artworks together, said Barbara Boehm, operations director at ESMoA.

The organizers hope that visitors will focus on individual works and evoke memories and emotional connections with the films represented in them.

“We wanted it to be a big ‘wow’ with lots of pictures and fabric patterns,” said Hayes, who made a quilt using floral and pineapple fabric pieces and phrases from Forrest Gump. He also painted Michelle Pfeiffer’s horrified look from What Lies Beneath when her character nearly drowns in a bathtub.

“There was a lot that we could bring to Rick’s cinematic story,” said Hayes. “It was a fun process.”

Carter is proud that the exhibition became less of a retrospective of his work and more a way of empowering a younger generation of diverse artists who interpreted well-known film characters “on their own terms and with their aerosol artistry,” according to the 72-year-old film veteran .

“Now some of these images have a new life outside of the films, but in a large collage that’s put together in a very freely associated way,” Carter said. “Hopefully, with a little insight, you can get to a point of reference where you can start making some of the associations yourself.”
Earlier this year, Carter brainstormed with the artists, who then spent about three months creating their contributions to the show.

“We tried to crack his brain a bit,” said Talavera, who drew a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and intricate pencil drawings of Back to the Future character Emmett “Doc” Brown.

Talavera said, “There was a story to everything.”

Carter pays homage to “Mt. Rushmore up there,’ he said, pointing to a quartet high up on the west wall of the gallery. This piece features images of four film titans – Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron and Abrams – with whom Carter has worked closely. Your films provide the tableau for the exhibition.

Zuenkeler, chief curator of ESMoA, came up with the concept of the towering collage.

“Bernard had this idea that it should look like my brain,” Carter said. “And that’s how it feels.

“These are all works of art,” Carter added. “The images you see are the artists’ images, but they reflect the images of the film.”

On Saturday, “Time” will be a main attraction at El Segundo’s Art Walk Festival, a free event taking place in the coastal city’s downtown and Smoky Hollow neighborhoods.

‘Experience 51: Time’

Where: ESMoA, 208 Main Street, El Segundo
When: Thursday 12pm-5pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm. Until March 25th.
Entry: free
The information: (424) 277-1020, At El Segundo’s ESMoA, an exhibit explores the movie worlds of Rick Carter

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