POPzilla Goes Back to the Future

POPzilla's Ryan Batcheller and Sam Carter, the nerd-culture mavens responsible for last year's Tim Burton tribute, have followed up that dynamite show with another exhibition at Rothick Art Haus. “TIME after TIME: A Tribute to Time Travel in Pop Culture” is an ode to the Michael J. Fox-starring Back to the Future trilogy. If you're a fan of those films, I expect you'll be thrilled. I was never enchanted by the them, however, and if you feel the same way, you may be less likely to think this exhibition is on par with the previous show.

Let me get the best of the Back to the Future fandom out of the way first: Michael Matsumoto's W8AMINIT combines three time-period-specific Marty McFlys with the clock-tower face, flux capacitor and LED readouts. It's a fine piece that would make a great cover for the 30th-anniversary boxed set; I chuckled at the Oedipal horror of Lea Thompson putting the moves on Fox in Jeff Delgado's digital cartoon Parked; look for Brandon Starr's very cool lenticular print, The McFly Kids. Move left or right, and all but Marty disappear; Brandi Dimino's rustic Café is a triptych of the Delorean with diner/Zone/saloon backdrops laser-engraved onto wood panels; lastly, Zack Gracia's Hoverboard, with Marty's cuffed jeans and basketball shoes in the frame, the bright colors of the board contrasting with a phantasmal background haze of green and LEDs.

Those taking more risks with their choices include Austin Haynes; his A Most Excellent Supper is a Da Vinci parody with characters from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, but with the stroke of genius: It's digitally printed on metal. There's a lot going on in Anabelle Dimang's imaginative watercolor-and-ink An Army Matches on it's Stomach. Titled after a (misspelled) Napoleon quote, Dimang's work riffs on the Ziggy Piggy scene from Bill & Ted, Jacques-Louis David's iconic painting, and then throws in an ice cream pun for good measure. I was wholly charmed by Layal Idriss' petite watercolor, TARDIS Umbrella, with its row of yellow stars hanging by strings above the mini blue raingear and the tip a tiny blue police box.

Kudos for branching out go to Where It Started, Jemely and Jeremy Jayme's vision of Booker and Elizabeth from the video game Bioshock Infinite. A dinosaur licks its chops in Luke Flowers' tongue-in-cheek Wrong Place, Wrong Time, as cartoon versions of Bill and Ted, Marty and Doc Brown, and Rod Taylor holding a dead Moorlock from the 1960 version of The Time Machine, all standing in front of a junk pile of their demolished, crash-landed time machines. I wish I owned Chris Williams' exquisite, acrylic on wood Día de los Muertos-esque TARDIS, complete with delicate fez-hatted skull poking out from the glowing doors. Bimal Gorajia's snarky revamp poster for Midnight in Paris substitutes the names of the actors for the artists they played, save Owen Wilson (who no one takes seriously as an artist, anyway). Last, but not least, I bow before the talented Tracie Cotta: Her two dioramas—Adventure in Time and Space's TARDIS floating through the white flecks of painted stars and It's an Excellent Adventure After All, her mash-up of Bill & Ted and Disneyland's It's a Small World—are superbly inspired.

There are also a couple of missteps, the worst by Carter and Batcheller: Carter's delightful watercolor on paper Vortex Goggles On!—with Calvin and Hobbes flying their cardboard box directly at a pack of Mesozoic dinosaurs—falls into Shepard Fairey territory, the work too close a copy of Bill Watterson's original illustration to offer anything else. It's a shame, too, because he's imaginative enough that I would have liked to see his take. While I liked his trio of cartoon caricature Biff incarnations from Back to the Future, Batcheller's portrait of a sonic screwdriver-wielding David Tennant will send any serious Doctor Who fan bonkers by discombobulating the doctor's “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey . . . stuff” quote as “Whimsy Wobbly Timey Wimey.”

Loaded as the show is with art inspired by alternative time-travel stories—Futurama, Meet the Andersons, Peabody and Sherman, Time Bandits, and Army of Darkness, among others—there's a lot more attention paid to Back to the Future, a film that's clearly near and dear to the curators' hearts. Understandable, but just two references to the novel and film that started it all, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine? I appreciate the allusion to the Nicholas Meyer H.G. Wells-vs.-Jack the Ripper film from 1979 by titling the exhibition Time After Time, but not a single piece of art inspired by it? No Star Trek IV, 12 Monkeys, Groundhog Day, Somewhere in Time or even The Butterfly Effect? No TV shows such as Quantum Leap or Land of the Lost? It's also worth mentioning the amount of wall space taken up by Carter and Batcheller's art. No denying their work is good and deserves to be seen, but here's hoping the next show they produce will involve them doing a bit more curating and a little less self-promotion.

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