Wes Anderson is well known for making visually pleasing films. His eye for color, knack for capturing deadpan expressions, and an ability to cohesively arrange various characters and props on screen fill his work with inspiration for other visual artists. There even exists a popular Instagram account focused on real places that are “accidentally” Wes-Anderson-esque.
And most recently, more than one hundred artists participated in a tribute exhibit to his 2018 stop-motion-animated film, Isle of Dogs.
Curated by Spoke Art Gallery, the show features sculptures, wood-carvings, paintings, and more, all focused on Anderson’s canine characters and Western interpretation of a fictional futuristic Japan. It is free and open to the public for one weekend only at 213 Bowery. Fox Searchlight Pictures, which distributed the film, also organized the show.
The film itself drew controversy and mixed reviews surrounding the American director’s use of Japan as the setting for his underdog plot. Journalist Angie Han tackled these important issues of appropriation and othering here. Nate Jones simply reported that Isle of Dogs was decent but sleep-inducing cinema.
The exhibit, centered on visual narratives, does little to address these topics. Instead, the art on display affirms only that Anderson is a skilled curator of color, nostalgia, and influence. Artists involved had more than enough material to work with, some drawing from the film’s crucial scenes while others focused on the extremely detailed main characters.
Raul Barquet, a multi-disciplinary artist with a penchant for text, found himself drawn to one existential line from the film:
“I don’t know why I bite.”
It is the basis and title of his hand-ripped collage on view in the small gallery space on opening night. “It’s influenced by beware of dog signs,” said Barquet.
The artwork depicts the dog Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston) both before and after he is bathed in the film. It also reflects the artist’s assertion that he “collage[s] like a painter”. Large blue letters elegantly spell out “I BITE” between the black and white dogs. Isle of Dogs is Barquet’s favorite Wes Anderson film to date.
Another artist created replicas of the main four-legged characters and Atari, the young boy they help. Colorful embroidery, portraits of Anderson, and interpretations of the film’s promotional posters covered the walls.
Zoe Williams includes a signature white felt for most of her art. Her Isle of Dogs sculpture is an adorable puppy with taxidermy eyes, encased in a glass dome. It could blend right into a litter featured in the film.
“It fit with my aesthetic and the aesthetic of the show,” she said of her decision to create the piece.
The exhibit also highlighted a new book, The Wes Anderson Collection: Isle of Dogs. Max Dalton, a graphic artist, illustrated the collection, including the dog-laden cover art. He was thrilled to contribute this year, and has previously illustrated a 2013 Anderson Collection as well.
Copies of the smaller artworks were available for 25 to 60 dollars. The more intricate and unique pieces were priced well over $200.
A majority of the art can be found on the Spoke Art website once the exhibit closes.