Contemporary Pop Art With Feeling

Born in California, Tommy Shenkar began his career in architecture and interior design, then channeling his creative energy into silversmithing and high-end furniture design, and eventually becoming an upscale interior designer, designing products for Hollywood’s elite. Only over the last few years has Tommy Shenkar emerged as an artist, finding himself in unfamiliar, but exciting territory. Influenced by icons of Pop Art like Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Mars, and the vibrant colors and Mexican culture of California, Tommy began to forge his own path as a Pop Artist. Through his use of recycled wood and other materials, Tommy delivers a nostalgic but authentic feeling.

Tommy addresses some of the most iconic themes of Americana–the superhero, the celebrity, and advertising– with humor and authenticity. Famously introduced during the World Wars at the turn of the century, superheroes represent both the lowest man can fall, and the hope he can create in the face of utter desolation. “WONDER WOMAN,” celebrates the superhero, while “SUPERMAN” marks the precarious role these characters held for America. Shenkar also tackles our more human superheroes with images of celebrities and pop icons. Born Norma Jean Mortenson, Mariliyn Monroe was obsessively documented, famous mostly for her connections to powerful and influential men–in addition to being the most popular sex symbol of the 1950s. Pop Artists use her image the way Italian Renaissance artists used the image of the Virgin Mary. What makes Tommy’s version so special is the context he provides for his images of this celebrated icon. In “CHANEL NO 5,” Marilyn is nude, covered only by an American flag, and flanked by bottles of perfume, while in “COVER GIRL,” she stands in front of the flag, smiling under the hollywood sign with the Life’s magazine logo in the upper corner. America’s celebration of simultaneous condemnation of Marilyn’s sexuality is implicit in the juxtaposition of these two paintings. Tommy skillfully comments on America’s pop icons using symbols of Americana.

Drawing on the sentimentality inherent in his subject matter, Tommy Shenkar uses found materials like recycled wood and metal in order to create his works. His Pop-Art and Americana feature figures like Marilyn Monroe and Frida Khalo, emblematic not just of their own histories, but of a national one. He explores the comic book heroes of Batman, Captain America, and Spiderman. He recreates iconic advertisements, like Coca Cola and Double Bubble.The reuse of old materials as a canvas for his nostalgic subject-matter is a perfect match. These images, on a recycled background, take on a deeper meaning.

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