Clayton Brothers: Inside Out Pasadena

Part two of the Clayton Brother’s retrospective moves into the main gallery of the Pasadena Museum of California Art organized by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and curated by Stephen Fleischman May 15 through September 4, 2011.

Fortunately, one of the early Clayton’s collaborations as brothers, “This Will Help Them (from the Green Pastures)” is featured in the exhibition. This painting is one of my favorites, a large mixed media diptych that measures 67” x 103.” “This Will Help Them” is a fitting title for a cherished life experienced shared between the Clayton Brothers and I in 2003. There were alot of personal projects in full swing: “The Most Special Day of My Life,” Scribble.08 documentary, Zoetrope All Story and the art addition of “This Will Help Them.”

“The Most Special Day of My Life” is a testament to brotherly collaboration. Brothers Clayton were hands on throughout the entire book design and production process. At the time, my life was all about couch surfing in Pasadena, tacos, caffeine refills and working alongside Rob and Christian trying to find the right mix of imagery, visual tone and rhythm. Daniel Johnston played on while commissioned paintings and 6 Foot 11 exhibition panels were painted on. Thousands of slides transformed into hundreds of book pages and the Clayton Brothers first monograph was ready to be printed. And then…

“We need to cancel your exhibition, Heaven and Hell.” “Ummm…What? I’m not sure I heard you correctly.” “Yes, we need to cut back our operational budget, due to immediate facility improvements. We’re sorry, but this will not happen unless you sponsor the shipping of the show yourself...”

A frightful conversation in the summer of 2003 and a terse exchange with the director of the Philadelphia Sketch Club two weeks before the exhibition opening for “Heaven and Hell” featuring the Clayton Brothers and 52 additional artists. Many racy words raced through my head and I received my first dose of “Brotherly Love” from America’s oldest artist organization formed in 1860.

One minute later a phone call from my college roommate, Spencer, living in Ohio and an immediate commitment to drive across the country, see some sites and navigate our ways into adventure. 48 hours later a Ryder truck packed with 104 bubble wrapped paintings en route from San Diego to Philadelphia. Within 6 hours, I blew up the truck, (lead foot across the desert, but don’t worry a drunk 16 year old who resembled the son of Captain Crunch made the necessary repairs). Traveling on a tight schedule, I said, “hey!” to the Grand Canyon, purchased canned possum in Arkansas, partied with the ghost of Elvis in Memphis along with a jovial pimp and overly perfumed prostitute (“Don’t worry nothing happened, just dancing in the streets.”) and safely delivering Spencer back to Ohio to rejoin his family.

Upon my arrival at the Philadelphia the Sketch Club, I discovered the director unavailable as he left word to deliver the artistic cargo the following day. Feeling the predatory nature of the neighborhood, I Decided to sleep in the truck as protector of the arts before his excellence, the director, made himself available. He was nice, he treated me to a Philadelphia cheese steak for me valiant efforts.

After the last painting was hung for “Heaven and Hell,” the cocktails served and a weekend partying with the Illustration Conference in Philadelphia enjoyed, I caught a flight over to Hong Kong to print the Clayton Brothers first book. All well and good, except for a little disease called Sars. Let’s just say this disease was worse than the common cold, pushing most expatriates out of Hong Kong as quickly as possible. And don’t you worry, I was quarantined before boarding the plane, just to make sure I was a bill of good health. Crazy, adrenaline, whatever it takes attitude and life-changing experiences in the name of art.

We all have stories right? A fitting script in support of the Clayton Brothers as their collaborative style of narrative features inventive story telling that beckons your participation.

Rob and Christian Clayton’s colorful narrative, “Inside Out” will be featured at the Pasadena Museum of California Art on May 15 through September 4, 2011. You will not want to miss this large installation featuring six different Clayton Brother exhibitions championed by MMoCA, Stephen Fleischman, Richard J. Massey and Beth Rudin DeWoody. Oh yes, the title of their first book came from a trip to a mall, as the Clayton Brothers overheard a senior citizen pushed along in a wheelchair exclaim, “This is the most special day of my life.” (Inside Out entry one, entry two).

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