These are challenging economic times for artists globally: evaporating grants, miserly corporate support and penny-pinching private benefactors and donors no longer opening their wallets.
While the devastation is being evenly distributed throughout the arts landscape, visual artists are particularly vulnerable. In order to continue, and survive, an unsubsidized (i.e., non trust-fund baby) artist must be fearless, nimble, determined and, perhaps most of all, entrepreneurial. Los Angeles artists Brad Lamers and Carlos Salcines, founders of Pop Casualty, fit that description to a “T”—or, more accurately, to a tee-shirt.
Brad (originally from St. Louis and a Film & Communications major at Boston College) and Carlos (originally from a small town in Texas and a Radio-TV-Film major at the University of Texas in Austin) are Los Angeles-based friends who, in February of this year, launched the molto-cool clothing line Pop Casualty and its sibling, transactional web-site: www.popcasualty.com.
The genesis of Pop Casualty actually occurred in the summer of 2009. Brad and Carlos were hiking in Malibu Canyon. As Carlos remembers: “One of the things [we] talked about on the hike was Brad’s latest venture into art. For years he had been working at 20th Century-Fox, first as a Feature Production Coordinator, then as an assistant to one of the heads of Fox Atomic.” This youth-oriented division of Fox never really got off the ground; after it was shut down Brad optioned a screenplay written by two friends. While trying to get the screenplay produced, Brad, realized that he had a lot of “down-time,” and he began to paint, primarily acrylics on canvas. (You can see his paintings on www.bradlamers.com). During that fateful hike, Carlos told Brad that his paintings were very cool and that he thought they would make great tee-shirts. It was a Eureka moment—the idea for Pop Casualty was born.
As Carlos explained in a recent e-mail: “The idea was to use Brad’s artwork to create something that was modern, hip, urban and influenced by Los Angeles.” This hip quotient is even reflected in the company’s name: a play on the word “casualty” as it can be broken up into “casual-t(shirt”) The name of the company also alludes to the Pop Art qualities of the founders’ work.
In the same e-mail Brad explained that Andy Warhol has been the greatest influence on his art. “I feel like I could teach a class on him. Love him or hate him, I think he [Warhol] has shaped our modern art and culture more than pretty much anyone.” Later in our email conversation, when I ask him what other artists have influenced him, he tells me “I love the conceptual nature of John Baldessari, the LA themes and attitude of [Ed] Ruscha, and, in no particular order, the work of Picasso, [James] Rosenquist, [David] Hockney, [Roy] Lichtenstein, Basquiat, and Banksy.” He continues “I think all of these artists have an underlying rebel or almost “punk-rock,” do-it-yourself confidence and attitude. That is something I really relate to—an artist who is a little “in your face” and fearless…When I first moved to Los Angeles I wanted to be a musician; I think my musical influences of alternative and punk rock have helped shape my over-all artistic sensibilities.” Since any of these tee-shirts (especially the DAZED GIRLS & DAZED GUYS series—two of my personal favorites) could easily be CD cover art, I couldn’t agree more.
As of this month, Pop Casualty has 17 completed tee-shirt designs that are either currently available on their website—or will be in the next month. Any or all of these bad-ass tees make for uber-hip Christmas presents.
As Brad tells me “The initial feedback on the line has been excellent; we have already sold out both the LA GUYS and the LA GIRLS tee-shirts.” Brad also has been asked to paint the background for the wildly successful “$#*! My Dad Says” TV series Twitter page. In addition, in a marketing coup, CBS has allowed Brad and Carlos to stamp the page with the Pop Casualty brand image.
In line with their self-proclaimed admiration for, and advocacy of, the no-holds-barred DIY approach, Brad and Carlos have this month launched a guerrilla marketing campaign, which includes spray painting Pop Casualty heads and posting stickers all over Los Angeles.
And get ready Gotham—next month a “New York” tee similar to the wildly successful LA shirt will be making its debut. Pop Casualty goes bi-coastal.