Go go go you mixed up Siciliano. All you Calabrese do the mambo like-a crazy with the…
So, yeah. Finally got to check out the Mambo exhibition at NGV.
Verdict? Great curation by Eddie Zammit (of T-world fame). The whole time though I was looking for my favourite piece and didn’t find it which was disappointing. Funnily enough, it doesn’t even come up on any internet searches either but with such a massive output of work, this isn’t really a surprise. It was the t-shirt print that was my introduction to Mambo in the early 90’s. I begged mum to let me get it. As a 13 year old girl it took a lot of convincing because I was a strange child and liked the grotesque and things usually pigeonholed for boys. I did end up winning out and getting it though and wore it to death. I’ve still got it in a box somewhere I’m sure. It was bright orange and had an epic large full colour placement print of a grotesque looking dude holding (and eating) a burger made up of his own body parts in it (eye’s, organs etc) with great gooey / drippy typography ‘Self serving’ at the bottom. It was probably a style amongst a range released just after the brands inclusion in the ‘Surrealism: Revolution by Night’ 1993 exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW (If anyone actually knows please correct me if I’m wrong on this! I’m purely dot connecting here).
Mambo was probably one of my introductions to surrealist art and went on to inspire in a pretty direct way a piece in a campaign I did for a Perth based accessories label some 16 years later. An image that also ended up being re-licenced as the official campaign creative for the Fremantle Street Art Festival in 2011.
Creatives generally try and hide their references… I’m happy to own that I pretty much nicked the idea and re-contextualised it for a fashion piece. It looks nothing like the shirt but the essense behind it is the same. Oh tisk, tisk I hear you say? Well I say straight up – nothing is new, the basis of all ideas have been done before in some way or another. It’s how you re-purpose, give new context and join new dots that makes you a good creative (and openly crediting inspiration is something more of us should do… but that’s just my extra two cents).
Speaking of referencing. I came across a piece in the exhibition I can (hand on heart) honestly say I’ve never seen before and independently came up with the same idea a few months ago to pitch in for one of the labels I’m working for. Luckily it didn’t go ahead because it’s pretty much exactly the same as what I had scamped out. Moral of the story… always good to do a quick internerd search of potential ideas before going ahead with commercial work. Cool to think I was in the same headspace as them though.
Inspiration and unintentional near rip-off’s aside. The rest of the exhibition is great and I recommend anyone living in Melbourne to go and check it out.
Its a curation of Mambo in its heyday. Such a shame it ended up being a stocked in Big W and losing it’s edge. For me that really knocked the brand off my radar. Interestingly enough though, aside from their own online store – they also now stock at Surfstitch, City Beach and Myer. A very strange decision to have such a wide target – can’t imagine what the strategy behind that mix must be. I’m sure is churning over enough of a crumb though, but its definitely now not the brand it used to be. Hopefully this exhibition will inspire renewed interest, even if not in the brand but the legacy of art for art’s sake as t-shirt prints.
Really really want pizza now.