CARTWHEEL Review: “Mitch O’Connell, The World’s Best Artist”

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It takes a lotta guts–and a certain amount of glory–to call yourself “the world’s best artist” even with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek–or someone else’s.  But Mitch O’Connell’s gloriously good-natured, candy-colored art is just so much fun to well, wallow in, that   during many hours spent immersed in O’Connell’s career-spanning tome “Mitch O’Connell, The World’s best Artist” by Mitch O’Connell, yes, he is the best artist in the world. And the world is not the same after absorbing his pop-culture fueled and fevered visions.

Granted, in order to accept this thesis enough to even open O’Connell’s sparkly vinyl covered book, published by Last Gasp, you have to love kitsch and have no snobbery about commercial art. And as I have said said before, Michaelangelo was a commercial artist, and I’ll go a step further and say that  the Sistine Chapel was the biggest billboard of its time.

O’Connell began as a comic book illustrator for Charleton Comics, which he calls

the last rung of the comic publishers at the time

though frankly, their horror horror comics narrated by Cain and Abel saved my sanity during summer vacations at my grandmother’s house in the small town of Hiawatha, Kansas. I loved walking down to drugstore, buying a chocolate malt and loading up on the back issues  and then scoring new ones the day they arrived.

O’Connell was an art student when he was drawing for Charleton, and then came one of those life-changing calls: An art director at Playboy commissioned a piece of work from him. From there he got a commission from Heavy Metal magazine (and learned the fine art of negotiating a fee in the commercial art world). Soon, O’Connell was the art director for a role playing game, and from there moved into editorial, advertising and gallery work, admitting that his

path has often been chosen by grabbing whatever paycheck is dangled.

O’Connell is decent guy. He thanks the advertisers, like McDonalds and Cocoa-Cola who hired him, gives props to his former employers, and credits the artists whose has inspired him. And he’s also pretty darn nice about the horrible breakup of his marriage on 2008, which shifted his world. In a painful passage he explains:

My personal art before this had meanings behind it–nothing earth shattering, mind you; but instead of some mildly amusing and clever  insights, I was now about to vomit emotions all over by 30″x 30″ wood-paneled canvases… A freeing “fuck-it” attitude prevailed: I painted anything I felt like…The ideas would be king, not how pretty, round and shiny I painted them..I produced my best art ever.

(Spoiler:  There’ s a happy ending!)

Mitch O’Connell, The World’s Best Artist also details O’Connell’s work processes, full of sketches, color separations, and loaded with images ranging from his magazine covers, drawings for Warner Bros. cartoons, posters, CD covers, tattoo flash, and of course his fine art. Plus lots of curvy femme fatales, monsters, big-eyed animals, and pop culture references, and warm, human story-telling.

Mitch O’Connell will be signing tonight, February 23 at Nucleus Gallery, 210 East Main St, Alhambra CA 91801, from 7pm-10 as part of the opening reception for his show–the only exhibition of his work on his book tour. Tomorrow Sunday, February 24, O’Connell will be signing at La Luz de Jesus from 3pm-6pm. Both galleries will feature a slideshow of his work.

Mitch O’Connell signing Mitch O’Connell, The World’s Best Artist
Sunday, February 24, 2013 3pm-6pm
La Luz de Jesus
4663 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028






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