Greg “Craola” Simkins curates group show INLE

Greg “Craola” Simkins, one of the most gifted and diverse artists working today, put together an astounding collection of artists for the group show INLE, that took place at Gallery 1988, LA. The show ran March 11th – April 8th, 2011. This powerhouse show was Simkins’ début as a curator and with over 100 top-tier participating artists, he unquestionably proved his prowess in the arena.

Simkins is best known for his complex scenes which often comprise highly stylized animals in equally unique situations and compositions. He is a prolific creator who has handily mastered many mediums – from painting to drawings to graffiti, his style is completely his own.

To see “Craola” in action, please view this short time-lapse video by Amy Duran for Juxtapoz. It shows him painting a mural at Mid-City Arts assisted by Graham Curran.

Simkins released a book in 2010, “Drawn from the Well” which encompasses his many years worth of drawings and sketches.

He has put his signature style on clothing, skateboard decks, toys, and wall graphics. His artwork was also skinned on iPhones and Laptops at Gelaskins.

Simkins is also well known for peppering his work with personal symbolism, which has often been pulled from his abiding affection for Richard Adam’s award winning novel “Watership Down.” So it is no surprise, that his first curated show would draw from this deeply meaningful subject.

Who or what is INLE?

In 1974, Richard Adam’s wrote the beloved classic “Watership Down”. It is a tale about overcoming the obstacles of life that try to beat you into submission and coming out on top, told through the unlikely embodiment of rabbits. Upon reading the book at a young age, one particular thread stood out to me. The story of “The Black Rabbit of Inle”. It was on page 280 of this book that my Grandfather had gotten for me on a road trip that the story of Inle´ unfolds. The fear he induced in the rabbits who told tales of him is not much unlike our own fears of death and what is unknown. I always questioned was their fear based upon him or the inevitability of their own demise, and was it something to fear or welcome after a long life lived? With this book began my over 24 year obsession with using rabbits as a tool in my art. Upon relating my memories of this book with some artist friends of mine, I wasn’t surprised to find they had similar attachments to the story and subsequent movie and that it too was a huge influence on their work.
The question is asked over and over “what inspires you and your art?”. Well here is one aspect, and In my attempt to keep this story alive and in honor of Richard Adam’s timeless story we are proud to present “INLE”.
-Greg “Craola” Simkins

For those of you who have not read the book or seen the film adaptation, Zay Amsbury of gives a heartfelt summary of the film’s POV in regards to The Black Rabbit of INLE. A more straightforward overview of the original novel can be read on Wikipedia.

Speaking personally, when I learned of the theme of this show many months ago, I got gooseflesh. I too had been irreversibly affected by the story as a young child. Through the reading I was enraptured, horrified and moved to tears – it was the first piece of literature I had read that was brave enough to reveal life’s dark truths while still provide unflinching optimism. I still have my original copy today. So it is an understatement to say I am deeply moved by the show’s theme and soothed by the INLE artist’s vast interpretations of the complex beast that is The Black Rabbit.

Various stills from the adapted animation feature film “Watership Down” and my well-worn childhood book.

In anticipation of the show, Jensen Karp @ Gallery 1988 caught up with Simkins for an interview. The entire piece can be read here. Below are a few excerpts:

The Interview

Jensen Karp: So explain to me the concept of this show and what it means to you

Greg Simkins: The show is called Inle,´which is a character from my favorite childhood story “Watership Down” by Richard Adam’s, … As a kid my mom rented me the movie. … and it was a lot more gruesome than she probably intended to let me watch. Years later, … my Grandpa purchased me Watership Down … It made sense of all those images and became a real important book to me. It was about heroes escaping oppression and good versus evil and all that good stuff that can leave an impression on a young kid. It was at that age that I began drawing rabbits…. a lot.. I even raised a bunch of them and gave them the names of the ones in the book.
I have always snuck tiny references to my favorite story in my pieces, be it “INLE” scribed in a wall or a tree or the number 280 which is the page which references the Black Rabbit of Inle in the edition of the book my grandfather bought for me. I was always fascinated with the dual idea I had gotten of this character from the movie and the book. Since he is Death per se, at least to rabbits, they feared him, but what they really were afraid of was the unknown. … I just found him mysterious and created my own stories for him since he isn’t mentioned a whole lot throughout the book. He is more of an under tone, or a shadow present throughout much of the book

Jensen Karp: What was it like telling artists about the using this point of reference to create new paintings for the show? Did any of them know exactly what you were talking about?

Greg Simkins: I was surprised by how many of the artists had similar occurrence as kids seeing the movie. I also found that a lot of them were just as taken with the story as I was. Especially Josh Keyes who enjoys listening to the sound track at times while painting, which I found fascinating being that I had a suspicion he was a fan of Richard Adams before I had even thought of doing this show. (Josh Keyes’ artwork is shown below) … Part of me wanted to do the show just for the purpose of inspiring our collective audience to read the book. So much of our world is focused on entertainment via movies and television and the internet these days, it is my way of saying, don’t forget about the millions of great stories out there just pages away.

Jensen Karp: It has to be considered one of the best line-ups in our scene’s history, let alone just at the gallery. It feels like everyone is going to bring their A game. Tell us about your contribution to the show. (photo of Simkins’ piece below)

Greg Simkins: I had to take this piece serious since it is one I have been wanting to do for a while. I haven’t ever fully tackled a straight up “Watership Down” piece more than hinting at it and hiding various portions of it through my work. I’m looking at it right now and it is one of my favorite pieces I have painted to date. I toned down my color palette using only black grey and red. I based it upon all the creatures that “The Lord Frith” which is the God character in the book, made to hunt and kill rabbits. Inle sits on a clouded mound of these creatures almost the king over death. He sits among the gravestones of our favorite heroes from the book who inevitably will have to pass on. Their ghosts are seen flying upwards to the moon in the background and onto other adventures and life after death. It’s almost as if the dangers in life be it the fox, owl, cat and weasels are no longer a threat to them in Death and Inle has just ushered them on.
Greg “Crayola” Simkins’ interpretation of The Black Rabbit of Inle
This collection of top-level artists was astounding. You were very lucky if you lived in Los Angeles or had unlimited, unrestricted airline miles.
Greg “Craola” Simkins & Gallery 1988: Los Angeles present:
Over 100 artists interpret the anti-hero of Richard Adams’ Watership Down
Opening Reception: Friday, March 11th, 2011 from 7-10pm
Gallery 1988: Los Angeles
7020 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Facebook event page
In the remainder of this post I will feature just a few of the stunning artworks that will be on display for this show plus links to the artist’s websites.

In the remainder of this post I will feature just a few of the stunning artworks that will be on display for this show plus links to the artist’s websites.

Alex Pardee

Amanda Louise Spayd : website & blog

Amy Sol
Audrey Kawasaki : websitetumblr
Brian Despain : website
Brian Colin : website
Carrie Ann Baade : website
Samantha Levin of Anagnorisis Fine Arts is co-curating a booth at the inaugural Verge Brooklyn Art Fair with the Brooklyn Art Project. Carrie Ann Baade will be one of the featured artists at the booth.
Chet Zar (work in progress) : website
Chris Ryniak : website
Christian Rex van Minnen : blog
Dan May
Dave Pressler : website & blog
Fred Harper (detail) : illustration website
Jason Limon : website
Jason Maloney : website
Jeffery Page : website
Jeremy Fish
Josh Keyes
Joshua Clay : website
Luke Chueh : website & blog
Martin Wittfooth : website
Michel Gagné : website & blog
Mike Mitchell
Molly Crabapple : website
Samantha Levin of Anagnorisis Fine Arts is co-curating a booth at the inaugural Verge Brooklyn Art Fair with the Brooklyn Art Project. Molly Crabtree will be one of the featured artists at the booth.
Robert Bowen in the studio : website
Scribe (one of two!!) – website
Skinner (partial shot of painting) : time lapse video of the making of this painting
Steven Daily : website
The Beast Brothers

The complete list of participating artists:

Aaron Jasinski, Adam Hathorn, Alex Garcia, Alex Pardee, Amanda Louise Spayd, Amy Sol, Angry Woebots, Annie Owens, Anthony Ausgang, Anthony Filo, Attaboy, Audrey Kawasaki, Augor, Axis, Beast Brothers, Bob Dob, Brandi Milne, Brian Colin, Brian Despain, Buff Monster, Camilla d’Ericco, Carrie Ann Baade, Charles Wish, Chase Tafoya, Chet Zar, Chris “Devious” Gliebe, Chris Ryniak, Christian Rex van Minnen, Colin Christian, D. Ross Scribe, Dabs & Myla, Dan May, Dan Quintana, Daniel Danger, Dave Correia, Dave Flores ATC, Dave Pressler, David Choong Lee, Deph, Dytch 66, Eric Merrill, Eric White, Fred Harper, George Thompson, Graham Curran, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Gris Grimley, Gunnar, Haste, Jason Daquino, Jason Limon, Jason Maloney, JAW Cooper, Jean Labourdette (Turf One), Jeff McMillan, Jeff Soto, Jeffery Page, Jen Lobo, Jenny Mollen-Biggs, Jeral Tidwell, Jeremy Fish, Jeremy Sutton, Jersey Joe Rime, Jesse Smith, Joe Capobianco, Joe Hahn, Joe Ledbetter, Joe Vaux, Johnny KMNDZ Rodriguez, Johnny Vampotna, Jon Beinart, Jordan Buckley, Josh Keyes, Joshua Clay, Kevin Knight, Kevin Dickinson, Kevin Perterson, Kris Lewis, Logan Hicks, Luke Chueh, Lyte, Man One, Mark Bodnar, Martin Whitfooth, Matthew Bone, Maxx 242, McEvoy & Rodriguez, Meggs, Mia Araujo, Michael Page, Michel Gagne´, Mike Mitchell, Mike Stilkey, Misha, Miss Mindy, Molly Crabapple, Naoto Hattori, Nate Van Dyke, Nathan Pearce, Natoe, Neko, Nicholas Charles, Nicnak, Nome Edonna, Peekaboo Monster, Persue’/BunnyKitty, Peter Gronquist, Poor Al, Rabodiga, Rask Opticon, Retna, Revok, Robert Bowen, Roland Tamayo, Ron English, Rory Keating, Sam Flores, Sas Christian, Scott Belcastro, Sergio Hernandez, Shaun Kasl Singer, Shawn Barber, Skinner, Skot Olsen, Sram, Steven Daily, Tara McPherson, Thomas Lynch III, Tim Hendricks, Tomi Monstre, Tony Curanaj, Travie McCoy, Travis Louie, Tyke Witnes, Vic Back, Werk, Yosuke Ueno, Zoso