We’re going to be examining the Pelican’t (2017) vinyl sculpture today. Now, if you’re familiar with the artwork of Joe Ledbetter, who is also known simply as J.Led, then you’ll immediately recognize this piece’s style as his. But for those that aren’t versed with the man and his aesthetic, let’s start there.

A Brief History of Joe Ledbetter

Upon graduating with a degree in Sociology from Humboldt State University in 2001, Ledbetter began his career as a graphic apparel artist, despite him having limited formal art training. During this time, Ledbetter evolved his personal style, influenced by the bold lines and vibrant colors of classic animation but twisted by his own sense of irony and social criticism. By the summer of 2004, Ledbetter had honed this trademark visual style to the point that he was capable of making it his full-time endeavor.

Initially expressed through paintings and illustrations, Ledbetter’s aesthetic was introduced — in earnest — on designer toy movement sculptural forms in 2005. And, since then, his incredible cast of characters have regularly been translated onto vinyl countless times, including his most recent piece, this Pelican’t.

My Impressions of the Pelican’t

Produced by Kidrobot, the Pelican’t is not only a perfect example of Ledbetter’s style but also of his dark sense of humor. As you can see, this down-on-his-luck pelican’s bill is perforated, causing the water — and fish prey — to elude him by escaping downward. Accentuated by his sad eyes, this embodies the concept of watching our own goals slip away before us.

Humorously enough, this piece’s design was inspired by its title instead of the other way around. Years ago, Ledbetter jotted down a note to create something using the same play-on-words that Johnny Depp’s character in Once Upon A Time in Mexico delivers to Danny Trejo: “Are you a MexiCAN or a MexiCAN’T?” He initially was trying to create a character named the “Toucan’t”, but he was struggling with it and his wife, Giorgia, was the one that suggested this altered direction.
But regardless of how it came to be, the Pelican’t is a truly strong and unique vinyl sculpture. The overall design concept, that of an in-flight bird held aloft by the splashing water, is both striking and dynamic. And the little touches on it, like the fish hook through its dixie cup hat and the band-aid covering the fourth hole in its beak, are every bit as captivating as the obvious elements, like the beautifully curved wings and the delightfully placed legs.
The Pelican’t also serves as a teaser of sorts, being a medium sized rendition of one piece from the upcoming Outsiders mini-figure series by Ledbetter from Kidrobot. Speaking of whom, I should specify that this is the Kidrobot.com exclusive Arctic Edition of the Pelican’t, which was limited to 200 pieces. The bird itself is blue hued, denoting the icy cold temperatures, while the water is a pearlescent frozen white with silver fish sliding down it. Now, there is a regular version that was limited to 800 pieces, featuring a more traditionally colored pelican with green fish accompanying the brilliantly transparent blue water spilling forth.

Editions of the Pelican’t [show]

For more information on Joe Ledbetter:
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