Clayton Brothers “Inside Out” Retrospective

“This Will Help Them (In Green Pastures)” currently on loan to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art from the Mark Murphy collection

In 1997, I visited La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood while still living in Cleveland to see Rob Clayton’s exhibition, “No Rhyme Nor Reason.” There were some great paintings, but for me the painting that really struck a chord was “How Are You, Not Bad.”

Christian Clayton : Black Velvet Lucha and Rob Clayton Lucha Libre

Almost a year went by, I gave Christian Clayton a call to collaborate on my first book, “Guapo y Fuerte” (Tough and Handsome), about the pageantry of the Mexican Luchador. Christian was excited to participate and immediately recommended that I connect with his brother Rob. I felt a bit embarrassed, as I had no idea they were related, nor that this was the guy that had created the painting I had admired while visiting L.A. With great appreciation—13 years later—Christian and Rob have introduced me to many important moments in both my personal and professional career.

Rob and Christian’s first collaboration, “Empathy Lost” 10" x 120" : 2000
(above/detail : below complete piece)

On Saturday, September 11, Rob and Christian Clayton introduce their retrospective, “Inside Out,” at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. “Inside Out” features 26 paintings and 3 mixed media installations that celebrate the Clayton Brother’s unique form of narrative and distinctive characterizations born out of questioning life’s complexities. Rob and Christian described their first collaborative experience, “Empathy Lost,” in the film “Scribble.08” which offered the unique opportunity to celebrate their close bond while honoring their childhood memories working along side their father in his studio. Christian exclaimed, “It was the most fun I ever had on a painting...” Rob shared, “It all went nice and smooth and thought hey, let’s do more of this.”

This Will Help Them (In Green Pastures) : Two canvas panels : Mixed Media : 2001

“Green Pastures” was Rob and Christian’s break out exhibition in 2001 featuring “This Will Help Them (In Green Pastures)” and their full scaled kids playhouse, “Tim House (In Green Pastures)” originally owned by Long Gone John and now part of the permanent collection at MMoCa. “Green Pastures” was an important break out exhibition at La Luz de Jesus Gallery. The Clayton’s wrote, “The Clayton Brothers invite you to take a walk through Green Pastures and step inside Tim House. Have a seat. Sing a song. Answer your own questions. Create your own story. Everyone is welcome here.”

“Tim House (In Green Pastures)” part of the permanent collection of MMoCA

In 2003, I witnessed the development of Rob and Christian’s continuous 74’ panorama made up of twenty-seven individual paintings. Each painting celebrated the story telling of Charles Murphy. Sadly, I missed the opening, as I was on a press check for their first book, “The Most Special Day of My Life” which was a collection of ten years of their painting career at that point. The book was to be created in a non-linear form, similar to their collaborative style and back and forth exchange. This book took into consideration what was next in the artistic careers of Rob and Christian.

Rob and Christian Clayton at “In the Land of Retinal Delights” Laguna Museum 2008

2003 Was a busy time for all of us, as I was shacking up on Rob’s couch (3-5 days at a time), along with his two dogs and cage full of canaries. We were all working night and day on the production, design and planning of how the book would be arranged. Not to mention, the establishment of all of the initial grids for the Fall issue of “Zoetrope All-Story” published by Francis Ford Coppola. Fittingly, the issue was titled, “The Mates Issue” and composed of Clayton Brother’s drawings, paintings and design. Meanwhile, back to “The Most Special Day...,” the press-check in China, went great, the color carefully reviewed over five days. The color reproduction exceptional, the limited edition case looked solid and Christian promised me a big fat steak dinner upon my return…and “Drippy Come Back Home.”

Drippy Come Back Home : 24"x 40" : 2003

Good times, great memories and plenty of artistic growth over the years shared between all three of us. Not to mention the balancing act of family, career, teaching and ongoing artistic development. Rob and Christian have introduced me to some great artists too. Jeff Soto, Martha Rich, Saiman Chow—all students at Art Center, and all featured in the 2002 “Outer Space” calendar project. (P.S—Jeff received his first assignment from this project).

Rob and Christian have collaborated with me in many Murphy Design projects over the years: Future/1998, SuperHero/1999 (Cover and Interior) and Outerspace/2000 monthly-calendar projects; Guapo y Fuerte (Tough and Handsome) (1998), Heaven and Hell (2001), and The Most Special Day of My Life (2003) book projects; Scribble.08 art documentary film project (2003-2009); and featured exhibitions “Guapo y Fuerte”(San Jose/CA) 1999 and “Survey Select” Narrative Art Exhibition (San Diego) 2010.

Rob and Christian have been supportive all these years. Christian has reminded me—with a smile, “Keep it up. Keep working hard!” and Rob always delivers a friendly “What have you been up to?” Rob and Christian have been there for three-fourths of my professional career and have been a great resource for inspiration. I ’d like to believe that I have been a consistent hook up for Clayton Brother Comic-Con tickets and books over the years. I can’t wait to visit “Inside Out” in Madison September 11. This will be a great opportunity to extend a personal and kind, “Super thanks!” for the great exchange.

For more information on Rob and Christian Clayton, check out their website and for more information on “Inside Out” at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art visit here. And for more information on “Survey Select” please read here.

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