Joshua Marc Levy didn’t have time to plan an art show. Overbooked and slammed with poster work from clients, the Asheville-based illustrator headed to Push Skate Shop & Gallery one morning this March, literally thanking the universe that such a demanding undertaking wasn’t also on his plate.
Upon entering the space, where he sells prints, postcards and stickers, Levy was greeted by shop owner Rob Sebrell. With his friend flashing a suspiciously large smile, Levy practically knew what query was heading his way: “Hey man! Do you want an art show?”
“Something told me to take it anyway,” says Levy. “It had to be different, something we haven’t seen too much of recently. Shortly after, at lunch, the theme randomly came to me: television and film pop-art mashups.”
The results of this overextended blessing in disguise — the Push TV group exhibition — opens Friday, June 28, and runs through the end of July.
Following his epiphany for the show’s focus, Levy had a vision of Mike Teavee from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory staring into his TV set in a deep trance. Levy then started seeing what he calls “weird combinations of shows” in his head, including “Laverne & Shirley” in “Land of the Lost” with The Black Lodge’s zigzag floor from “Twin Peaks.”
“I began to reflect on how much we all loved these shows growing up collectively,” Levy says. “And then my brain juxtaposed all of this joy with the fact that we were being brainwashed by the commercials and news programs for so many years.”
Keeping his inspirations’ time frame to creations from the 1950s-’90s, Levy made a list of his favorite television shows and films from his youth — “Everything from ‘Happy Days’ to ‘Heathcliff’” — and wound up using images from many of them. He also went to Facebook and polled his fans on approximately 100 different beloved options that helped inform his pen and ink creations. Much like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, one of Levy’s referenced works, he sought to imbue his new pieces with hidden meanings, resulting in what he dubs “a highly satisfying form of pop-punk-rock protest art” with censorship as a recurring theme.
“After living through 9/11 in New York City, I have been revisiting that day inside pieces such as ‘Twin Pines,’ mashing up Back to the Future, Snow White [and the Seven Dwarfs], Alice in Wonderland and more. ‘I Wish It All Away’ has elements exposing the dangers of glyphosate poisoning, and ‘They Live Was a Documentary’ has themes of the pharmaceutical industry pulling the strings on air through advertising money,” Levy says.
“There are also fun and uplifting pieces, such as ‘There’s No Place at Home,’ which is more friendly in its Wizard of Oz trance and ‘Looney Tunes’ dance with the viewer. Would you rather see a melting Jerry Garcia smiling at you? No problem, we have that, too.”
For his Push TV collaborators, Levy recruited artists intentionally from different circles in order to “get new folks to see each others’ works” and create “a more fun, unpredictable and pure reaction from the viewer.” As such, he chose Travis Medford, a member of the skating community and a talented screen printing artist. “He came up with some fresh ideas immediately,” Levy says.
Levy also picked his personal tattoo artist, Greu. The owner of Integrity Alliance tattoo studio and gallery says he dedicates roughly 85% of his time to tattooing but also makes room for beer label designs, pieces for shows and personal projects, primarily working with ink, acrylic and watercolor with a recent affinity for digital media. Levy calls Greu “an artist who lives within a completely different circle, working in a different style and medium,” and who brings “authentic diversification” to the exhibition.
“Coming up with pieces for this show posed a real challenge in that there are so many ideas and such limited time,” Greu says. “I decided to approach things as I usually do and submit works in a variety of mediums and styles as to convey the variety of programming found on television.”
Employing a brainstorming and research process similar to Levy’s, Greu sought “to find commonalities among these shows to play off of” and discovered that cartoons and sitcoms from the ’80s and ’90s gave him his best ideas. His “not-so-serious prime-time lineup” seeks to entertain viewers as the selected programs run into each other, forming amusing overlaps that he wouldn’t have minded seeing on the screen when the shows were on the air. And, also like Levy, he’s thankful for the opportunity to carefully plan out and craft a meaningful set of drawings, which the show’s organizer feels arose through nothing less than kismet.
“The universe helped balance out my workload in order to produce a proper amount of authentic art to fill the space,” Levy says. “Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance.”
WHAT: Push TV group art show
WHERE: Push Skate Shop and Gallery, 25 Patton Ave. pushtoyproject.com
WHEN: Opening reception Friday, June 28, 7 p.m. On view through Wednesday, July 31