Gary Baseman

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Gary Baseman
Born (1960-09-27) September 27, 1960 (age 54)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist, illustrator, painter, designer, animator
Notable works
Teacher's Pet, Cranium
Awards Emmy Award, BAFTA award

Gary Baseman (born September 27, 1960) is a contemporary artist who works in illustration, fine art, toy design, and animation. He is the creator of the ABC/Disney cartoon series, Teacher’s Pet, and the artistic designer of Cranium, a popular board game. Baseman’s aesthetic combines pop art images, pre- and post-war vintage motifs, cross-cultural mythology and literary and psychological archetypes.

Baseman's art is frequently associated with the lowbrow pop movement, also known as pop surrealism.


Baseman was born and raised in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. He is the fourth child of Holocaust survivors from Ukraine.[1][2] Baseman's mother worked at the famous Canter’s Deli and his father was an electrician.[3] Baseman cites Warner Bros. cartoons, MAD Magazine, and Disneyland as early sources of inspiration. In junior high school, Baseman met Barry Smolin, who is now a radio host and musician, and Seth Kurland, a writer and TV producer. They remain close friends.[4]


Baseman studied communications at UCLA. He graduated magna cum laude as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society.[citation needed]

Pervasive art[edit]

Baseman cites Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami, and the illustrator William Joyce as contemporaries.[5][6]

Baseman coined the term 'pervasive art' as an alternative to the lowbrow art label.[7] He has stated that his goal is to "blur the lines between fine art and commercial art."[8] According to Baseman, pervasive art can take any medium, and need not be “limited to one world, whether [that] is the gallery world, editorial world, or art toy world.”[9]

Baseman exemplifies pervasive art in that he works commercially and also remains an independent artist.[9] He creates products that are sold to a mass market, and also shows in museums and galleries, selling original artworks to collectors. Baseman employs traditional art practices such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, drawing, and collage.[10]



From 1986 to 1996, Baseman worked as an illustrator in New York City. He earned several awards from American Illustration, Art Directors Club, and Communication Arts. Baseman refers to his illustration work, and to his general process, as message-making.[11]

Baseman’s drawings have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Clutter Magazine, Time, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. He has had major independent and corporate clients such as AT&T Corporation, Gatorade, Nike, Inc., and Mercedes-Benz.[10] Baseman illustrated the best-selling board game Cranium. After ten years in New York, Baseman returned to Los Angeles to explore opportunities in art and entertainment.[4]

Fine art[edit]

In 1999, Baseman exhibited "Dumb Luck and Other Paintings About Lack of Control" at the Mendenhall Gallery in Los Angeles.[11] The exhibition established Baseman’s transition from illustration to fine art, during a time when many of his artist-friends, like Mark Ryden, the Clayton Brothers, and Eric White made similar moves. Since then, Baseman has shown in close to twenty independent exhibitions, notably, "Happy Idiot and Other Paintings About Vulnerability" at the Earl McGrath Gallery in New York City; "For the Love of Toby" at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Los Angeles; "I Melt in Your Presence" at the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco; and "Hide and Seek in the Forest of ChouChou," also at Billy Shire.[12]

Baseman has exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the US and in Brazil, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Taiwan. Baseman's work is featured in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art in Rome.[8]

Fashion and toys[edit]

Baseman has translated many of his characters into toys and figurines, clothing, handbags, and other accessories. For toy, figurine, and limited edition projects, Baseman has collaborated with Critterbox, Double Punch, Toy2R, and Kidrobot. Fashion collaborations include Swatch, Hobbs & Kent, Harvey’s, Poketo, and Frau Blau. He has also designed the characters for the Cranium board game series. Most recently Baseman has collaborated with Coach, luxury New York fashion brand, for their Spring/Summer 2015 ready-to-wear collection.


In 1998, Baseman created the Disney animated series Teacher’s Pet, about a dog who dresses as a boy because he wants to go to school. Baseman claims the character Spot was based on his dog at the time, Hubcaps. The series aired on ABC from 2000–2002, and the feature film of the same title came out in 2004.[11]

The cartoon included the voice talents of Nathan Lane, Debra Jo Rupp, Jerry Stiller, David Ogden Stiers, Mae Whitman, and Wallace Shawn. The film featured Kelsey Grammer, Paul Reubens, and Estelle Harris.[13]

Baseman won the Outstanding Individual in Animation Emmy for Production Design. The show also won 2 Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program 2001 and 2002; Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program: Nathan Lane; and a BAFTA Emmy for Best International Children’s Program.

Recent years[edit]

In 2009, Baseman added performance art to his oeuvre with "La Noche de la Fusión," a mythical holiday festival. Over two thousand attendees celebrated a melding of cultural practices and ideas. Along with games, live music, and dancers, the event featured live models in costume playing Baseman’s female characters Skeleton Girl, Hickey Bat Girl, Bubble Girl, and Butterfly Girl. Displayed at the exhibition was the Enlightened Chou, a new character inspired by Baseman’s international travels.

In June 2010, Baseman presented "Giggle and Pop!" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Live action costumed ChouChous played in the La Brea Tar Pits along with models dressed as Baseman’s Wild Girls, who were renamed "Tar Pit Girls" for the occasion. The characters performed a dance choreographed by Sarah Elgart, and the audience joined in with singer-songwriter Carina Round, who performed a song she composed for the event.

In January 2011, Baseman exhibited darker works in a collection entitled "Walking Through Walls" at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York, NY. These works were centered around his father's passing in early 2010, dealing with themes of mortality as expressed through the greyed color palette and the creation of Lil Miss Boo, a character based on a photograph of a little girl in a bed sheet ghost costume.

Throughout 2012 and 2013, Baseman presented even more works with "Vicious" at the Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporarea in Milan, Italy in 2012. In April - August 2013, he created a retrospective entitled "The Door Is Always Open", which opened at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA. This exhibition centered around the idea of home and was based on Gary's childhood home, also in Los Angeles. Entirely, this was a "love letter" to his parents and celebrated the legacy they had brought upon to his family.[14] This exhibition traveled to MOCA Taipei in 2014.

Another exhibition, "Mythical Homeland", also opened in late 2013 at the Shulamit Gallery and was also exhibited in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival in 2014 and in Miami in 2013 as part of Aqua Art Miami.[15]



  1. ^ "Мультиплікатор Діснея приїхав на Західну Україну побачити батьківщину своїх батьків - Новини України на 1+1 - ТСН.ua". August 23, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Exclusive: Inside the Studio with Pervasive Artist Gary Baseman – Flavorwire". May 1, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ Tom Teicholz, "Going home with Gary Baseman", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, April 24, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Baseman, Gary. Dumb Luck: The Art of Gary Baseman. San Francisco, 2004: Chronicle Books.
  5. ^ Conley, Lucas."More Than 60 Seconds with Gary Baseman". Fast Company: April 2004. Accessed December 15, 2010.
  6. ^ Heller, Steven. Varoom. 2006: 82-3.
  7. ^ Herbert, Simon. "The Pervasive Artist." Art Ltd. January 2008: 34-9.
  8. ^ a b Baker, Lindsay. Barraclough, Adam. "Interview: Gary Baseman" June 2005. Accessed December 15, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Author unknown. "Gary Baseman." Play Times. December 2004: 28-38.
  10. ^ a b Vartanian, Ivan. Full Vinyl: The Subversive Art of Designer Toys. New York: Collins Design, 2006: 140-145.
  11. ^ a b c Saltz, Ina. "Smearing the Boundaries." HOW Design. June 2008: 80.
  12. ^ Accessed December 15, 2010.
  13. ^ IMDb. Accessed December 15, 2010.
  14. ^ "For Gary Baseman, 'The Door' is wide open and ready for more". latimes. 
  15. ^ "Gary Baseman". 

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