Pop culture

Kevin McCall

Artist Kevin McCall and his piece “Top of Their Game” at the New Spa.

Artist Kevin McCall and his piece “Top of Their Game” at the New Spa.


Kevin McCall’s exhibition is on display at the New Spa, 3888 Mayberry Drive, 787-3529, through Nov. 20. An artist’s reception will be held on Sept. 29, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.mccallpopart.com.

Kevin McCall is a landscape architect, and his Pop Art prints have the tightly controlled quality of architectural drawings. The compositions are careful, with everything in its right place and nary a stray mark, but the content is downright goofy. “Olive Electric,” for example, depicts the classic cartoon character Olive Oyl strutting her stuff in front of a backdrop of Popeye postage stamps and, almost unrecognizably, the GE logo. It’s Pop Art in the strictest of Warholian traditions, using cartoon characters and corporate logos to create original compositions.

McCall has lived in the area for 18 years. He has designed a number of outdoor spaces, including Comstock Park in South Reno, for which he won an award.

“My works are off-beat ideas expressed in a controlled manner,” says McCall. His background in landscape design and graphic design makes for rigid, carefully plotted artworks. “It’s my unending imagination filtered through the years of discipline of doing design work. I don’t throw paint. I’m usually pretty purposeful.”

He hand draws each piece using ink, colored pencils and other media, usually on double-sided Mylar. Then, he makes a high-resolution scan of each piece, prints a limited run, usually 10, and then hand alters and colors each individual print, so they’re all unique.

Many of the artworks in McCall’s current exhibition at the New Spa, 3888 Mayberry Drive, 787-3529, have a kind of light, comical surrealism. “Humans,” for example, depicts the silhouettes of people engaged in a variety of athletic endeavors. At the top of the piece is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous “Vitruvian Man,” and then at the center near the bottom, is a whip-wielding Catwoman. In the background, beneath the rest of the composition, is a close-up of a feline face, with that hungry but unimpressed look that cats sometimes get. The text that accompanies the piece begins, “Remarkable human athletic achievements pale through the eyes of a healthy cat.”

Another piece, “Volare!” depicts an airplane meal. With its muted colors and design-oriented composition, it looks a bit like a 1960s ad, like something straight out of Mad Men.

“It was my first still life, so I really wanted it to be first class,” jokes McCall.

“Top of Their Game” presents a variety of cultural icons from different decades—William Powell, Walter Cronkite, Mel Blanc, Frank Zappa, John Waters and Tom Hanks—each depicted as baseball card headshots accompanied by the logos of their hometown baseball teams. The piece defies logic. It’s difficult to imagine what might unite the icons—though five of the six sport mustaches, and even then it’s unclear how baseball fits in, but it’s an appealing piece, in a bizarre, old-school Pop Art mode.

It’s also strange artwork to encounter in the relaxed atmosphere of a spa. But McCall sees a connection. His work, like a spa experience, is “uplifting, humorous, positive.”

His works often contain visual jokes, like “Connect the Creations,” which depicts Dolly Parton, Salvador Dali, the Dalai Lama, and six other phonetically similar Dollies.

“People look at my work, and usually a smile comes across their face eventually,” he says.