He created the syndicated Yankee Doodles comic strip and sold some 90 million Rickie Tickie Stickies — the bright, graphic flowers that, in 1967, were more popular than paisleys. But Don Kracke, who had Fortune 500 companies lining up for his commercial art and industrial designs for the better part of 30 years, takes his fine art seriously — sort of.
“I’m an emerging artist at 75 years old,” says Kracke, who had a retrospective of his work in February 2007 at The Wright Image in Palm Springs. The works could be neatly classified as Dada, but he likes to call himself “the first of the red-hot LA-LAists.”
Kracke, prince of puns and self-proclaimed “world’s most versatile artist,” is showing 18 three-dimensional works from his LA-LAist series, which includes half of his office desk (From the Desk of Don Kracke), a globe cast as a cube (A Really Old Globe), and, from The Aging of America series, a bidet on rockers (The AARP X300). “[The bidet] is a piece that will make me famous, which is what I’m all about at the moment,” he deadpans.
The show also included the nine paintings that appear on the cover of his new retrospective book, The Many Faces and Facets of Don Kracke; seven paintings from his Patterns of Power series; six limited-edition prints from his book How to Succeed in Business Without Kissing Ass; and reproductions from his Meanderings collection and his book The International Handbook of Jockstraps.
“The best art in the world is children’s art and primitive art,” he says, referring to Patterns of Power. “It’s more pure, direct, and honest — before it’s screwed up by academics.” Taking cues from Southwestern rock art, Kracke’s drawings show patterns on figures akin to those drawn by shamans and adolescents. “The patterns were significant in the degree of power the shaman had,” he says. “I also like the tactile quality of the latex paint and beach sand.”
The author of six books, including the Doubleday bestseller How to Turn Your Idea Into a Million Dollars, Kracke notes that his work is as serious as it is silly. How to Succeed in Business Without Kissing Ass is a business book by nature: “It doesn’t have a Chapter 11,” he says, adding that many of his best line drawings appear in the book.
“I’m not sure if I like words better than pictures, but I do tend to combine them a lot,” he says.
You might also look for his Gay Jacket next to his Straight Jacket and paintings that pay homage to his favorite artists, including Fete of Klee (1989). But there really is a serious dimension to this show. It manifests in a sneak preview of Lest We Forget, a powerful Anne Frank Pop art wall installation that will surely find a home with a museum.
Don Kracke shows at The Wright Image, 123 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, (760) 322-5777.
This article was originally published February, 2007 and updated for the web June, 2007.