The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents a major retrospective exploring the full range of Tim Burton‘s creative work, both as a film director and as an artist, illustrator, photographer, and writer.

Tim Burton was born in Burbank in 1958. After studying at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), he worked as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios before breaking out on his own. Taking inspiration from popular culture, fairy tales and traditions of the gothic, Burton has reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as an expression of a personal vision.

The exhibition brings together over 700 drawings, paintings, photographs, moving-image works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera, including art from a number of unrealized and little-known personal projects. Many of these objects come from the artist’s own archive, as well as from studio archives and private collections of Burton’s collaborators. Hundreds of never-before-exhibited artworks and sketches will be joined by a selection of film posters accompanied by music composed for the exhibition by Burton’s longtime collaborator Danny Elfman.

This past weekend we finally got together with some friends and had the chance to visit the touring exhibition of Burton’s work at the LACMA. The retrospective originally opened on November 22, 2009, at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and closed on April 26, 2010.  It drew the third-highest attendance of any exhibition in the MoMA’s history; it is only behind Picasso, whose 1980 retrospective at MoMA remains the museum’s most popular (with 976,800 visitors), and Matisse, whose 1992 retrospective is second (with 940,000). More than 810,500 visitors attended Burton’s exhibit in New York. It then traveled to the Australian Center for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Australia from June 24, 2011, through October 10, 2011. Before arriving in Los Angeles, it was at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Canada from November 26, 2011 through April 17, 2011.

A staunch Tim Burton fan in the early days, I had grown out of his films by 1999. Sleepy Hollow was the last Burton work where I rushed to the theater to see. His films had become somewhat stale to me. Self-derivative, his movies seemed to become stylistically repetitive and seemed to just act as vehicles for Johnny Depp. I had fallen out of love.

Seeing this exhibition rekindled that love and adoration of his work that I once had and awoke the Tim Burton fanboy in me. Seeing this expansive collection you gain immediate respect for his talent, rigor and originality. It is also just a fun exhibition. I took joy in overhearing delighted groups of people, old and young, pointing, giggling at the different pieces and sketches; getting the dark jokes of Tim Burton and punctuating it with a laugh or smile. There is an innocence in his darkness that people respond to, “Oh, look at that one! That’s sooooo creepy!”

I had forgotten how prolific Burton is and how deep he is rooted in popular culture. Seeing all of these early sketches and artifacts from his movies reaffirmed that. Go see it as soon as you can. Below is a list of memorable pieces. (photographs by Alice Yoo from My Modern Met and talent Brandon Shigeta from Hypebeast)

Polaroid print by Tim Burton

Polaroid prints (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Tim Burton
23 (series of three, series of twelve and series of eight) Polaroid prints
1992-99
(A Nightmare Before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow period)

Space saucer with dents
1992-99
Painted wood

Untitled (Edward Scissorhands) sketch by Tim Burton

Untitled (Edward Scissorhands)
1990
Pen and ink, and pencil on paper, 14 ¼” x 9″

Twentieth Century Fox
Cookie-making robot (Edward Scissorhands)
1990
Mixed mediums

Sleepy Hollow scarecrow (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Paramount Pictures
Scarecrow (Sleepy Hollow)
1999
Mixed media

Warner Bros.
Willy Wonka headgear and braces (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
2005
Metal, and leather

Penguin baby carriage (Batman Returns)
1992
Wicker leather metal and paint

Skellington Productions
Oogie boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
1993
Foam latex, aluminum, and steel

Puppets (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
1993
Foam latex, aluminum, and steel
(collection of 10 puppets)

Jack Skellington heads (photo by Alice Yoo)

Jack Skellington heads (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Jack Skellington heads (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
1993
Foam latex, aluminum and steel
(collection of 26 heads)

Skeleton puppets (James and the Giant Peach)
1996
Foam latex, aluminum, and steel

Carousel (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Carousel
2009
Epoxy, polyester resin, plasma ball, muslin, fiberglass, foam, and fluorescent paint
Music by Danny Elfman
(mobile, black light room)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory animatronics (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Neal Scanlan Studio
Animatronics (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
2005
Rubber, cotton, foam, plastic, and metal

Martian Anatomy (photo by Alice Yoo)

Mars Attacks! (photo by Alice Yoo)

Martian puppets (photo by Alice Yoo)

Mackinnon & Saunders
Space-suited Martian puppet (Mars Attacks!)
1996
Metal, plastic, resin, foam latex, silicone, and glass eyes

Martian armature (Mars Attacks!)
1995
Metal and resin

Naked Martian puppet (Mars Attacks!)
1996
Metal, resin, foam latex, and glass eyes

Corpse Bride puppets (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Corpse Bride (photo by Alice Yoo)

Corpse Bride puppet (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Puppets (Corpse Bride)
2005
Metal, cloth, resin, foam latex, and silicone
(collection of 10 puppets)

Rick Heinrichs
Henry Army Transformer (True Love)
1981-83
Sculpted wire, metal rod, and paint

Dr. Fu Robot Transformer (True Love)
Sculpt wire metal rod and paint
1981-83
Sculpted wire, metal rod, and paint

Display piece (Vincent)
1982
Clay, wire, metal, wood, and paint

Snake maquette (Beetle Juice)
1987
Clay, wire, sisal, and paint

Stephen and Charles Chiodo
Marge eyeballs (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)
1985
Plaster, acrylic paint, and brass rods
(series of eleven eyeballs, arranged big to small)

Aggie Guerard Rodgers
Striped sleeves (Beetle Juice)
1988
Glazed-coated cotton

Armor and masks appear in a variety of forms in Burton’s films. They are elements of gothic costumes and expressionistic props and feature in more subtle aspects of his actor’s performances, which often make reference to the techniques of silent cinema.

Costumes (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Bob Ringwood
Catwoman suit and gloves (Batman Returns)
1992
Polyurethane-coated nylon

Batman cowls (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Batman cowls (photo by Alice Yoo)

Cowls (Batman)
1989
Latex rubber
(A beautiful sculpt, well preserved except for the minor degrading and curling ears)

Edward Scissorhand costume (photo by Alice Yoo)

Colleen Atwood
Edward Scissorhands costume
1990
Leather rubber metal and resin
Stan Winston Studios

Edward Scissorhands glove
1990
Leather, rubber, metal, and resin
Stan Winston Studios

Headless Horseman cape (photo by Brandon Shigeta)

Headless Horseman cape
1999
Mixed media

Helmets (Planet of the Apes)
2001
Plastic, metal, and paint

Angora sweater (Ed Wood)
1994
Angora

Frankenweenie Weird Girl maguette (photo by Alice Yoo)

Frankenweenie Edgar maguette (photo by Alice Yoo)

Noel Estevez-Baker
Frankenweenie maquettes
2010
Plasticine over aluminum wire with acrylic paint
(Elsa, Vincent, Spanky, Weird girl, and Edgar)

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Resnick Pavilion
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
May 29, 2011 – October 31, 2011


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