‘The Big Lebowski’: It’s an art show, man


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The movie ‘The Big Lebowski’ left a definite imprint on popular culture, spawning everything from an online religion called Dudeism to a surge in White Russian cocktail orders. Now Orange County artist Joe Forkan is unveiling a particularly high-minded tribute to the Coen brothers’ 1998 film.

Forkan’s ‘The Lebowski Cycle’ is a series of 14 paintings and drawings inspired by two sources -- masterpieces of Western art and the Coens’ comedy about an avid bowler named the Dude (Jeff Bridges), who is a victim of mistaken identity.


Forkan’s painting above depicts a scene from the film in which the Dude and his bowling buddies, played by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, try to decide how to handle the loss of a favorite throw rug that ‘really tied the room together.’ The piece takes as its thematic inspiration a 1784 painting by French artist Jacques-Louis David, ‘Oath of the Horatii,’ in which three Roman brothers are also forging a plan.

‘In the movie, they play it like it’s a drama,’ said Forkan, who is an associate professor of art at Cal State Fullerton. ‘There’s no mugging for the camera. Everything has this level of seriousness. In the ‘Oath of the Horatii’ they’re talking about the future of Rome. In the film they’re talking about a rug that got peed on, but they’re as serious about that as the characters in the painting were. I liked that level of drama in these images that were also loaded with humor.’

PHOTOS: Joe Forkan’s ‘Big Lebowski’ paintings

Forkan will be discussing the paintings in the series -- and the classical works that inspired them -- in a gallery talk tonight at 7 at Orange Coast College’s Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion, where the paintings are on display until Oct. 28. For a closer look at Forkan’s work, check out our slideshow.


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--Rebecca Keegan