Back in 1999, artist Todd Forstyhe took as series of photos of a Barbie doll, naked. In one picture, the buxom blonde splashed happily in a martini glass; in others, she was stuffed in a blender. It is not entirely clear what Forsythe was trying to communicate with the series, called Food Chain Barbie, but a bunch of lawyers from Mattel seemed to interpret the work as saying, Come sue me! Which they promptly did. Making the photos was a $1.8 million gamble for Forsythe -- thats how much he racked up in legal costs. Luckily for him, he was vindicated in 2004 when the courts deemed the lawsuit frivolous, and ruled that Mattel had to pay those fees.
Forsythes offending pictures, as well as other work that has caused havoc in courts around the country, is featured in a new exhibit called Illegal Art at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood (1650 Harrison St.). As America is becoming more and more corporate, says Samantha Salzinger, curator of exhibitions, copyright law is becoming stricter and more problematic for artists. Pieces in the show include Pez dispensers made in the likeness of Tupac, Eazy-E, and Biggie Smalls, along with letters that artist Packard Jennings sent to Pez Candy, Inc. proposing that the company mass-manufacture his designs. Bill Barminskis "Mickey Gas Mask is included, as are photos of corporate signs that David Byrne (of the Talking Heads) took and passed on to artist Danielle Spencer to alter. Theres an image of the Seven Dwarves in an orgy; a Mussolini doll that an artist packaged, planted in Wal-Mart, and then bought; and fake stamps that were actually sent through the mail. All the pieces in the show, says Salzinger, infringe on copyright laws in one way or another. Many have been part of lawsuits. Some have won, and some have lost.
Illegal Art opens Saturday and runs through April 2. Call 954-921-3274, or visit www.artandculturecenter.org.
Feb. 4-April 2