The Velvetmania exhibit at Gallery1988 opens on Friday. It features 35 of artist Bruce White’s black velvet paintings of 80’s and 90’s wrestlers, and they’re just absolutely phenomenal. White and gallery owner Jensen Karp collaborated on the project for the past year.
Plans for the project arose about a year ago during a video game exhibit in which White was commissioned to do a painting of Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who was always Karp’s favorite character to play as in WWF video games on the 8-bit Nintendo. The two made a deal that if the Macho Man velvet sold in under 10 minutes, White, who works full-time as a tattoo artist at Tattoo Asylum in Durham, Nc., would have to work on an exhibit full of wrestlers. Here’s that ‘Macho King’ art from last year, which will not be on display this weekend:
Karp was an avid pro wrestling fan in his youth, so much so that he wound up briefly working as a producer for WWE Raw in 2006. “I lived a circus,” he tells The Big Lead. “I was producing and writing for Vince McMahon and his son Shane while they were feuding with Shawn Michaels. They dealt with the fact that Shawn was actually a born again Christian in real life, and wanted ways to make fun of it. We went to a church that let us film there for money, and we just threw out idea after idea of how Vince could basically degrade God.”
“I wrote that he would wash his hands fully in the holy water — like a full washing — then sip the water and spray it out like he was another wrestler Triple H,” Karp continues. “And he did it. And it was on TV. And Im going to Hell.”
“I honestly haven’t watched wrestling in years,” White chimed in. “But I was a HUGE fan when I was a kid. I’m a little older than Jensen, so my era was the very late ’70’s and early 80’s…Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Andre the Giant etc. I have very fond memories of watching those guys with my dad.”
The only duplicate in the group is Flair, who is depicted in two separate eras — here’s one of them:
Here’s the first look at the Jake “the Snake” Roberts painting:
Karp estimates that the original paintings will retail for somewhere in the range of $500-900, and says that limited edition prints will be available for guests at affordable prices. The exhibit runs through March 29th. These are some more of the pictures that have run on Karp’s Tumblr: