October 19, 2010


Spy Viber, Bosko Hrnjak, is an established artist working in the stylish corner of the Fine Arts inspired by Mid-Century Modern architecture and design. His mixed-media pieces evoke the spirit of Rat Pack-era Vegas and Tiki Modern. Bosko has two exhibits coming up that Spy Vibers won't want to miss. Spy Vibe sat down for a virtual chat to discuss his new shows, Atomic Age Culture, Hugh Hefner, 007, Elvis, and Derek Flint's bachelor pad!

The main event on our radar is Mondo Lounge, an annual "Modernism Weekend" in Las Vegas, which will be held October 22-24 (so buy those tickets now!). The Mondo Lounge website describes their vibe as: "Mid Century Modernism, Classic Las Vegas, Hollywood glamour, lounge culture, Frank Sinatra, Rat Pack shenanigans, Martinis, cocktails, vintage fashion, Atomic Age and Space Age Living, Exotica (ala Les Baxter, Esquivel), Eames era style, 1950s, 1960s style, Bachelor Pads, minks and black tie, Sean Connery era James Bond, stereophonic sound, Pin-up Girls." Got your attention? The schedule is packed with fashion shows, film screenings, vintage-costume parties, dances, and art exhibits at the Palms Hotel by Bosko and Shag (Josh Agle). Bosko also has a solo show at M-Modern in Palms Springs, opening reception on December 4th at 7:00. More info on Bosko's website.

Spy Vibe: Tell us about the work that you have in the exhibit. what are some of the main themes?

Bosko: The work I have in the Mondo Lounge exhibit is curated by M-Modern in Palm Springs (where it will reopen first week of Dec), I’ve done many shows with them, the whole subject of mid century/modernism is truly embraced by Palm Springs and this work just fits that whole aesthetic. My “wood” art line came about when I met the founder of “Witco” Mr Westenhaver back in the mid 90’s, my (future) wife and I collected “their” work before we had met him (or each other), Witco was one of the most (if not the most) prolific mid century furniture/art companies in America any theme that was popular from 1956 to 1976 they produced, cats, African, conquistador, Tiki, mod, you name it they had some amazing and very crazy designs. Two of their most famous rooms were Elvis’ Jungle room and Hefner's pool room at the Chicago Playboy mansion, but they designed or furnished hundreds (probably thousands) of other establishments during that period and had show rooms all over the country for regular people who wanted some exotic element or environment in their lives.

The thing that really appealed to me with their “framed art” was the mass produced aspect one person (William Westenhaver) designed it but it took many (steps) people to assemble all the disparate pieces no one person saw it whole (until the end) nor did they have any aesthetic interest in it, in particular they hired employees with no creative ambitions. My favorite designs were very minimal. They would have a little wedge shape of wood indicating some thing, the hull of a boat, a bird, a sun or moon, etc… He reduced the subject matter to a few elements that your eye was able to quickly translate the meaning of. Their “art” was a symbol of or only represented a piece of art, but they sold it and people proudly bought it as a genuine “hand crafted” piece of art. Of course I don’t know how far people thought that through back then, but it really hit a cord with me.

At first glace my work looks like something that could pass as a (vintage) piece from a mid century environment. But on closer inspection, they are obviously from today. Many are more of a homage to certain pieces of architecture or what we today view as a mid century style. Others are simple or whimsical. But in all of them, I try to remove as much extraneous information as possible -yet still convey the idea- and in that, they tend to have that (minimal) modernist quality without actually being “modern art”. The work that is in the show runs the gambit: birds, abstract shapes, sea life, buildings, desert scenes, flowers, ants, a monkey and bird, I had many more on the drawing board for this show but had to get on to other projects.

Spy Vibe: Do you have fave films or culture from the mid-century/tiki period that you draw from for inspiration?

I love so many films from that period. Most of the movies we own are from that era, there really is so much you can draw from on so many levels: the sets, wardrobe, film scores. It’s obvious at each stage that they had a vision which would convey something genuinely new. As far as culture, we are huge collectors of almost anything from the mid century, our home is filled with different themed rooms and collections. It’s like a museum to that era. When we travel, we look for any architecture, restaurants, anything we can view or experience. It all still has such a fresh purposeful look even 50 years on. If you contrast it to “popular” design today there’s no comparison. Just take something common like signage- fifty years ago it could be anything from crudely hand painted to utterly fantastic, functional sculpture. Today it’s all the same eight square foot plastic box. It's so static when you see a road full of them, your eye can’t make out any one. Ironically, the whole idea of today’s enforced uniformity was to clean up visual clutter, and that’s exactly what they created.

Spy Vibe: Who were your spy heroes growing up?

My big hero was Robert Conrad on the TV show Wild Wild West. Obviously it’s not a cold war spy, but then what else was he really? All the gadgets, the 60’s inspired western ware, the sets, the villains. I guess I liked almost anyone you would see on a TV set in pre-cable Los Angeles: Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief, The Persuaders with Tony Curtis, Roger Moore. Also on the occasional Sunday Night movie when they would run a classic James Bond, for a kid it was such an exciting event to look forward to.

Spy Vibe: If you were an evil villain, what would you choose as your secret lair?

I hate snow but Piz Gloria (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), Blofelds research facility in the Alps, was very cool and isolated yet connected all over the world. But if there is one (non evil villain) interior environment I am absolutely inspired by, it’s Derek Flint’s NY (In like Flint) apartment; all the art, the multi-level swinger bachelor pad vibe, the whole movie has amazing interior design. It's obviously a parody but for my money they really nailed it.

Thanks, Bosko, and have a great time at your shows! If other Spy Vibers attend these events, say hello (wear a James Bond or Beatles lapel pin as ID if you are incognito).

For more on Modernism, Hugh Hefner, and design, see Spy Vibe's article Set For Adventure and Derek Flint's pad (#3 in our Top-Ten Set Countdown!).
You can see more of Bosko's Tiki art here. Also, Check out fellow Bay Area blog, Humu Kon Tiki for more Tiki Modern fun.

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