Click Mort & Dan Barry
Exhibition: February 2-25
Reception: Fri. Feb. 2, 8-11 PM
Posthumorous / Post Mort ’em
Artist Christopher Doran, aka Click Mort, used to leave oddly shaped, altered toys on the shelves of stores in Los Feliz. “Nobody knew what the heck was going on,” says Margaret Wynn, Doran’s longtime friend. He worked for Gentle Giant toys back when he did this with the help of a few co-workers. Soon after, he started crafting the ceramic figurines he called “recapitations.” He’d buy collectibles off the internet, then painstakingly take them apart and rebuild them — he’d have a reptile with its arm around a goose, boys who are half carrot clamoring onto a doghouse, or a cheetah-headed man helping a young boy fire a rifle. They were intentionally unsettling objects that turned the intended sweetness of these figurines into something else entirely.
Doran died on Oct. 20 after a long illness. A lifelong Angeleno, he was born in Mar Vista in 1954. “Christopher is someone who epitomizes Los Angeles. He was so committed to who he was. There was no noodling around,” says his friend Nina Gregory, senior editor for NPR’s Arts Desk. Doran began playing guitar as a kid, and Wynn remembers the young Doran as a “withdrawn, hermit-like guy.” He idolized The Cramps and for five months in 1984, played guitar for them. Years later, he would play with The Loafin’ Hyenas, too, but mostly he played music for himself.
His foray into visual art began after he got clean in the late 1990s. He was charged with making cakes for the members of his recovery group, and found the conventional decor boring. He would alter the cake toppers, and then started buying figurines from 99-cent stores, Wynn recalls. The guerrilla toy drops around Los Feliz began next. By the mid-2000s he would hone his own specific approach. He’d use a high-speed, diamond-edge Dremel saw to decapitate the figurines he often found on eBay, many of them saccharine, vintage and mass-produced. “He was timid about his work,” says Gregory, who owns more than a dozen of Doran’s sculptures. He had no formal training and, during his days at Gentle Giant, had been surrounded by craftspeople with technical training. Still, he submitted work to one of La Luz de Jesus Gallery’s annual “Everything but the Kitchen Sink” shows, and went on to have multiple shows at the gallery.
“Click Mort was more than just an artist on our roster. He was a dear friend,” says Matt Kennedy, the gallery’s director. La Luz de Jesus also published Doran’s book, The World’s Best Loved Art Treasures. Director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), a collector of Doran’s work, wrote in the book’s introduction: “The thing that represents my soul best of all is an alligator’s body with a little nurse girl’s head on it. At least one person in the world — namely Click — finds that lovely. I know he does because he spent countless hours crafting it.”
In the last few years, Doran had begun to suffer from arthritis; it became impossible for him to make the figures, which required such detailed handiwork. “He bought himself another 20 years when he got clean,” says Wynn, noting that he made all his sculptures in that time. “It was a good run.”
Wynn, who also lives with Doran’s art, describes him as having “a very twisted sensibility. They’d look like one thing when you started looking at them, then there was a slightly sinister undercurrent — these were cute little toddlers that were deeply wrong.”
She says, “People refer to them as whimsical, and he really hated that.”
–Catherine Wagley, for the LA Weekly
Contact gallery director Matt Kennedy for purchase info:
The artworks in Dan Barry’s Passing Time exhibition have been created in 2017. On one level they are a reflection upon the fragility of human life, loss, transitions and anxiety. And, on another the series chronicles the artist’s daily personal response to the general climate of dread and chaos found in current world events. For those who choose to take the time to engage with these mixed media drawings, it is Barry’s hope that some of the works utter a delicate whisper, while others deal a more brutal blow.
As with previous series of artworks, the creation of each art object, from beginning to end, is a purgative and meditative process for Barry. Creation begins with the collecting and gathering of antique frames, found paper and ephemera – close to home and on the artist’s trips abroad. Finding inspiration in these collected objects, images and surfaces, Barry begins to combine them, creating layers of images, textural beauty, applying meticulous drawing techniques – thus building up a history of marks. The resulting art objects contain surreal visions and personal narratives. Although left intentionally ambiguous in narrative, it is the artist’s goal to provide the viewer with enough signifiers of meaning, and hopefully an emotional charge, thus allowing you to derive your own personal meanings.
Dan Barry, b .1971, Denmark, Wisconsin (currently living and working in Austin, Texas).
“For as long as I can remember I have been an explorer, a collector, an image maker, an artist and a story teller with a self revelatory urge. My artworks have always been a reflection, and ambiguous journal, of what is happening in my life, mind and surroundings at any given time.
I grew up on a farm in a rural part of the American midwest. At a young age I began digging in old dumps, exploring abandoned farmhouses, gathering and surrounding myself with found images and objects. After completing my chores, I spent a lot of my free time day dreaming, making art and environments. At the age of 15, I became an antique dealer. The money that I earned buying and selling antiques allowed me to attend a private high school and a small liberal arts college where I studied cultural anthropology and fine art. These formative experiences directly influence my love for worn, distressed and perfectly stained surfaces.
Using collected imagery, found objects and meticulous drawing techniques, I create layers of images, textural beauty and meaning set in a world of humor and at times fragile vulnerability. The creation of each art object, from beginning to end, is a purgative and meditative process. The resulting art objects contain surreal visions and personal narratives. Although often ambiguous, it is my intention to provide enough signifiers of meaning, and an emotional charge, allowing the viewer to derive their own personal meanings found within my art objects.”