The Universal Monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon — are some of the most iconic, unforgettable characters in cinema history. They’re characters so famous almost every single pop culture artist has done an interpretation of one or the other. So for a piece to stand out it’s gotta be unique, something striking and detailed, which is exactly what artist Ashton Gallagher is best at.
Gallagher is about to open his third Mini-Portraits show at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles on Friday, June 4, and Gizmodo is excited to exclusively debut a few of his incredibly hand-painted works. Specifically, three Universal Monsters the artist created for the show: the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Invisible Man. “My mum is a Universal Monster fan and she talks about her personal connection and what it was like seeing them in the theatre,” Gallagher told Gizmodo over email. “Any time I watch them, I try imagining what it would have been like to experience these movies in her shoes. In doing so it feels like a generational pop culture overlap. I had flashbacks of from my childhood when Doritos or Pepsi did a campaign with the Monsters. I saw my mum go crazy in store grabbing up every product that featured the monsters on them in the same way I did with Star Wars or Batman and immediately knew continuing the set was a must. Creature from the Black Lagoon was, in fact, the first painting I completed in Mini-Portraits III.”
Yes, as he said, this is a continuation. In a previous show, Gallagher had already done Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Bride of Frankenstein, so he wanted to complete the set. That idea became a unifying throughline for this entire show. “In my 2020 show, I was pulled to doing something classic,” he said. “I started with Bride of Frankenstein — such an awesome character to paint. I had so much fun with the painting that in no time I had Frankenstein and Dracula alongside her. For plotting out 2021, I wanted to expand the set.”
Unlike his other works, the Universal Monsters are rendered in black and white, to replicate the look of those classic movies. But, interestingly enough, the pieces aren’t actually painted that way. “They are meant to look black and white — but are painted with five specific colours aimed to feel a little grainy, a little fuzzy,” Gallagher said. “I enjoy switching up my palettes as much as possible and working monochromatically from time to time is a welcome change. The Universal Monster pieces produce a very different feeling — they breathe a different life into a painting. For me, using this palette tricks my brain into almost hearing that low-level buzz/static/scratchy background noise in black and white movies. This makes them so fun to paint.”
As for what else he’s painted for the show, think “continuation.” So if he’s done one or two characters that feel like they fit in a series, he’s probably done another piece to finish that series. For example, if he’s done Furiosa and Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road, it feels like another piece is needed to complete the set, right? See that, the Universal Monsters, and more when Mini-Portraits III goes for sale both in person and online, Friday, June 4 at 3 p.m. EST at Gallery 1988. Visit the gallery’s site for more.