Tristan Eaton’s "All At Once: 25 Years of Art & Design" @ Long Beach Museum of Art
In a career milestone, Tristan Eaton: All At Once presents a 25-year retrospective of the LA-native’s ongoing work and studio practice. Like Eaton’s career, the fully loaded exhibition transitions between guerrilla street art, iconic murals, game-changing design, and well-defined fine art, giving the viewer an atlas map of Eaton’s illustrious career.
Eaton’s exhibition transcends categories. The retrospective is meant to explore both his commercial appeal and his fine art abilities, juxtaposing and weaving them together seamlessly. As one of the few Urban Pop Artists to demonstrate both, Eaton highlights the synergy and creativity that become possible when the artistic side and the business side are embraced as cooperative, rather than opposing forces. Like the works of Murakami and KAWS, high art and product fill the same space making merchandise, public art, and fine art equally relevant.
For 25 years, Eaton has been at the forefront of multiple urban art movements. For the first time ever, the highlights of this journey will be on display for all to see. In the 90s he was drawing underground hip-hop posters in Detroit. In the early 00s he was designing ‘art toys’ that sparked an international craze and working as a creative director in New York, leading the crossover of graffiti into the mainstream via commercial advertising. All the while, Eaton was tagging streets across the globe and cultivating an alter ego that subverted the norms of street art with hundreds of illegal art installations. All of that effort and exploration culminates in a massive body of work with Eaton’s mural art and studio practice over the last 10 years.
When viewers enter the museum, they’ll be met with a massive full-color window installation and display of toys & sculpture in the museum lobby. Entering the exhibit, Eaton creates a visual timeline of his early career, featuring hundreds of sketches, ink drawings, paintings and posters from his early life. Also on display on the first floor are various toys representing Eaton’s pioneering place in the designer toy phenomenon. Eaton immerses visitors in KidRobot memorabilia including the ever popular Dunny and Munny, Eaton’s signature toy designs which are now in the MOMA permanent collection and The Smithsonian. This part of the exhibit, like everything else we’ve seen from Eaton, includes both the significant--toys featuring art from Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Basquiat, and more--and the playful, in the form of a 5-foot-tall Munny toy coated in chalkboard paint so visitors can interact with the iconic form and leave their own signature behind.
In a specially curated section, museum goers can experience TrustoCorp, Eaton’s alter ego. Eaton cultivated anonymous volunteers across the nation to take part in this clandestine approach to public art hoaxing which led to hilarious results and national news coverage. This collection of work spans from 2008 to 2014 and includes just a few of the many illegal street works and exhibitions he created under the alias, with 72 Street Signs, a Lowrider Shopping Cart, and a fully functional 6-foot-tall Operation game.
Upstairs there is a room decorated to resemble the void of space, as a means to feature the historic launch of Eaton’s work into space. The actual works of art that lived on the International Space Station by way of SpaceX will be on display, rotating behind glass. Continuing on, viewers can visit UPRISE, a series of paintings celebrating the powerful history of human protest and resistance. These paintings celebrate the efforts of the Black Panthers, the suffragettes, Martin Luther King and more.
The much anticipated highlight of this exhibition will be Eaton’s ‘American Dream,’ an entire room filled wall to wall with a spray painted, carnival game mural made to spoof and skewer the notion of American Exceptionalism. Every 15 feet of this mural is a unique, fully interactive game created with the hand made charm of an old school fairground and the new school attitude of a generation dedicated to protest and resistance. Viewers can ’Stir the Melting Pot,’ ‘Throw Money at Their Problems,’ and play ‘911 Roulette’ where they spin a wheel to see what happens when the cops show up.
The exhibit culminates in the present day, with a behind the scenes look at Eaton’s art studio and an in-progress example of his celebrated Marvel fine art prints. This room features the rarely seen copper plates used for the foiling process in these sold out works. Also on view are Eaton’s historic designs for the 2020 NFL Super Bowl tickets.
These special rooms and interactive experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. From this quick breakdown alone, it’s clear that both Eaton’s career and this retrospective are jam-packed, filled with engaging, poignant, and downright fun work. With this landmark exhibit comes not only entertainment, but community engagement and cultural experience.