The Empire strikes back with modern art

Star Wars is quite possibly the most iconic series of our time. That being said, there have been hundreds of spoofs, parodies and artistic interpretations of George Lucas’ legendary work. One might think there isn’t much room for artistic growth — that this intergalactic theme has run its course — but “Art From a Galaxy Far Far Away” proves otherwise.

The force · Artists Randy Martinez and Denise Vasquez spin popular and cultural themes on Star Wars-oriented art, such as Dia de Los Muertos, the Beatles, pop art, comic culture and sculptures. - Photo courtesy of Gorgeous PR

The vivacious energy was immediately felt at the Saturday opening of this contemporary exhibit put on by Hold Up Art, a small and intimate gallery in Downtown Los Angeles.

Storm troopers and Darth Vader, with his light saber in tow, lined the entrance, allotting photo ops for enthused art connoisseurs and fans of the film alike. The enthusiasm of the motley crowd, featuring young Jedi knights, trendy college students and middle-aged couples, could not be contained.

The Star Wars franchise is evidently still alive and well.

The exhibit featured the pop art style of Randy Martinez and Dia de Los Muertos-inspired work of Denise Vasquez, both of which served as an interesting and modern take on a tried-and-true theme.

Martinez opted for bright colors and an outlandish style, which borders on, but doesn’t cross, the thin line between bold and cartoonish. A few of his pieces featured different versions of the main subject: a black-and-white sketch, a small portrait and a large portrait.

For instance, one of these triple threats showcased a menacing Annakin Skywalker, weaponry and badass attitude in hand, in the foreground with a bright, eye-catching background. His red light saber flashes in all directions, redirecting your line of vision and offering a new perspective. These different takes on the same image change your perspective on the subject as a whole and reel you into the artistic process as the piece breaks the fourth wall.

Additionally, Martinez brought a dynamic air of three-dimensionality to his two-dimensional pieces by placing individual lead characters like Han Solo in front of a series of Star Wars themed comics, keeping the focus on these compelling protagonists.

Similarly, another bright, eccentric piece featuring Darth Vader, Yoda and company showcases a group of Lucas’ brilliant creations spinning upside down on a roller coaster, immediately grabbing the viewer’s attention.

Though these pieces catch the eye of the audience, one piece in particular stood out — The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, Star Wars edition. The piece stands apart as an ultimate pastiche of the six films and as a prime example of postmodernism; it includes Lucas among a ragtag assortment of Star Wars characters. Martinez is a true artist in the sense that he can manipulate such an iconic album cover and film series, bringing a new and interesting light to the heart of pop culture.

Vasquez also enlightens viewers with something that has never been seen before — Star Wars meets Day of the Dead. She took a childhood favorite and blended it with her Latina culture to create the quintessential representation of her being.

Vasquez found the inspiration to incorporate two seemingly unrelated themes from something deep within, claiming “I felt as though something was reminding me to reconnect with my culture, my influences, what I was missing … Wanting to incorporate my loves and where I was at the moment, the idea came to me, Star Wars meets Dia De los Muertos and I knew that was it,” Vasquez said — perhaps you could say she used the force.

Other pieces included a miniature, doll-like Princess Leia with a skeleton body and her iconic hair buns made of yarn, catching both the essence of the Latino tradition and film itself. A sith lord, Yoda and Han Solo effectively do the same, as well.

As for the best in show, an intricately designed Darth Vader helmet takes the prize. A white base, versus the traditional black, gives the piece the celebratory feeling of Day of the Dead. The sinuous and detailed red and black design administers a true sense of artistry. Plus, the innovative concept is enough to keep viewers gawking and the ingenuity running for days on end.

“Art From a Galaxy Far Far Away” brings a whole new level to what it means to be an innovative artist in our postmodern era. View this exhibit you must.


Art From a Galaxy Far Far Away runs through September 15th and is located at 358 East Second St. 

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