“Tristan Eaton: All At Once,” on view from July 16 through October 3 at the Long Beach Museum of Art, presents a 25-year retrospective of the LA-native’s ongoing work and studio practice. Like Eaton’s career, the fully loaded exhibition transitions between guerrilla street art, iconic murals, game-changing design, and well-defined fine art, giving the viewer an atlas map of Eaton’s illustrious career.
Eaton’s exhibition transcends categories. The retrospective is meant to explore both his commercial appeal and his fine art abilities, juxtaposing and weaving them together seamlessly. As one of the few Urban Pop Artists to demonstrate both, Eaton highlights the synergy and creativity that become possible when the artistic side and the business side are embraced as cooperative, rather than opposing forces. Like the works of Murakami and KAWS, high art and product fill the same space making merchandise, public art, and fine art equally relevant.
For 25 years, Tristan Eaton has been at the forefront of multiple urban art movements. For the first time ever, the highlights of this journey will be on display for all to see.
In the 90s he was drawing underground hip-hop posters in Detroit. In the early 00s he was designing ‘art toys’ that sparked an international craze and working as a creative director in New York, leading the crossover of graffiti into the mainstream via commercial advertising. All the while, Eaton was tagging streets across the globe and cultivating an alter ego that subverted the norms of street art with hundreds of illegal art installations. All of that effort and exploration culminates in a massive body of work with Eaton’s mural art and studio practice over the last 10 years.
When viewers enter the museum they’ll be met with a massive full-color window installation and display of toys and sculpture in the museum lobby. Entering the exhibit, Tristan Eaton creates a visual timeline of his early career, featuring hundreds of sketches, ink drawings, paintings and posters from his early life. Also on display on the first floor are various toys representing Eaton’s pioneering place in the designer toy phenomenon. Eaton immerses visitors in KidRobot memorabilia including the ever popular Dunny and Munny, Eaton’s signature toy designs which are now in the MOMA permanent collection and The Smithsonian. This part of the exhibit, like everything else we’ve seen from Eaton, includes both the significant–toys featuring art from Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Basquiat, and more–and the playful, in the form of a 5-foot-tall Munny toy coated in chalkboard paint so visitors can interact with the iconic form and leave their own signature behind.
In a specially curated section, museum goers can experience TrustoCorp, Eaton’s alter ego. Eaton cultivated anonymous volunteers across the nation to take part in this clandestine approach to public art hoaxing which led to hilarious results and national news coverage. This collection of work spans from 2008 to 2014 and includes just a few of the many illegal street works and exhibitions he created under the alias, with 72 Street Signs, a Lowrider Shopping Cart, and a fully functional 6-foot-tall Operation game.
Upstairs there is a room decorated to resemble the void of space, as a means to feature the historic launch of Eaton’s work into space. The actual works of art that lived on the International Space Station by way of SpaceX will be on display, rotating behind glass. Continuing on, viewers can visit UPRISE, a series of paintings celebrating the powerful history of human protest and resistance. These paintings celebrate the efforts of the Black Panthers, the suffragettes, Martin Luther King and more.
The much-anticipated highlight of this exhibition will be Tristan Eaton’s ‘American Dream,’ an entire room filled wall to wall with a spray painted, carnival game mural made to spoof and skewer the notion of American Exceptionalism. Every 15 feet of this mural is a unique, fully interactive game created with the hand-made charm of an old school fairground and the new school attitude of a generation dedicated to protest and resistance.
Viewers can ’Stir the Melting Pot,’ ‘Throw Money at Their Problems,’ and play ‘911 Roulette’ where they spin a wheel to see what happens when the cops show up.
The exhibit culminates in the present day, with a behind the scenes look at Eaton’s art studio and an in-progress example of his celebrated Marvel fine art prints. This room features the rarely seen copper plates used for the foiling process in these sold-out works.
Also on view are Eaton’s historic designs for the 2020 NFL Super Bowl tickets.
These special rooms and interactive experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. From this quick breakdown alone, it’s clear that both Eaton’s career and this retrospective are jam-packed, filled with engaging, poignant, and downright fun work. With this landmark exhibit comes not only entertainment, but community engagement and cultural experience.
About Tristan Eaton
Los Angeles-born artist Tristan Eaton began pursuing art as a teenager, transforming the common elements of urban landscapes and leaving his mark on the city, be it London, Detroit, or New York.
At the age of 18, he designed his first toy for Fisher-Price, and quickly became a driving force in the world of ‘Art Toys.’ Upon graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York, Eaton drew on his experience and co-founded the legendary KidRobot. There, he created two of its most iconic designs, the Dunny and Munny, solidifying his place as one of the founders of the designer toy movement and establishing himself as not only a versatile artist, but a savvy businessman as well.
Shortly thereafter, Eaton founded Thunderdog Studios, a creative agency where his artistic prowess and intuitive business sense worked hand in hand to amass a roster of high-profile clients. Here, he created original art and design work for clients including Nike, Universal, and Hublot among others. His highly sought-after style and work ethic in the field continues to inspire confidence in his clients and admiration among his peers while he blurs the lines between commercial and fine art.
Eaton, drawing on his well-rounded experience in different aspects of the art world, has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent international muralists working today. Each public art piece is executed in freehand spray paint – a technical and personal nod to his own history and respect for graffiti culture. From his murals in Paris and Shanghai to his recent public art piece honoring the history of Deep Ellum, Tristan Eaton is always careful to honor traditional painting and muralism with his thoughtful and dynamic subject matters and compositions. He crafts a meticulous, visual collage of pop imagery mixed with his own freehand style, allowing for incredible depth and layering in his work. Eaton prides himself on utilizing multiple techniques, blending the new and the old, the traditional and the modern, to create harmony in his work.
As he has established himself and shifted his focus to art and creation full time, Tristan Eaton has maintained his keen business sense, and it is that automatic integration that makes him so valuable
to some of the biggest movie franchises in the world. Eaton has made a name for himself in larger-than-life characters, earning the coveted job of rendering the classic Universal Monsters on the backlot at Universal Studios. His respectful interpretations of beloved characters has taken him where so few artists have gone before, to an elusive licensing deal with Marvel. Eaton is one of the only artists in the world allowed to create and sell work featuring Marvel characters, and he has once again proven that he is the right man for the job, kicking off the partnership with a limited run of a Marvel’s The Avengers fine art print series that sold out in just five minutes.
Eaton’s work can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) permanent collection as well as the Cooper Hewitt Museum and Long Beach Museum of Art, which is hosting a retrospective of his art career. For more information please visit www.tristaneaton.com.
About the Long Beach Museum of Art
Located on a magnificent bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Long Beach Museum of Art features a historic mansion and carriage house, expansive galleries and gardens, oceanfront dining at Claire’s at the Museum, and a curated gift shop. For more information, visit www.lbma.org.