Though Roy Lichtenstein began transforming comic panels from their lowbrow origins to dot-decorated canvases the year before, it is probably Andy Warhol‘s first solo exhibition of paintings in 1962 that is best known for elevating the mundane to the gallery-worthy. Displayed at Los Angeles’ Ferus Gallery from July 9th to August 1st, Warhol’s series of 32 Campbell’s Soup Can “portraits” lined the wall like a stocked grocery store shelf, elevating their packaging-based imagery to that of fine art. Having delved into this realm earlier the same year with several works, including his Campbell’s Soup Box piece, this vague mimicry would give way to exacting replication for Warhol’s first sculpture show, 1964’s The Personality of The Artist. With roughly 400 silkscreened plywood sculptures adorning Eleanor Ward‘s Stable Gallery from April 21st to May 9th, this exhibition’s contents replicated the cardboard shipping containers for such goods as Campbell’s Tomato Juice, virtually eliminating the boundary between the commonplace and conceptual. Having turned the artist’s mimetic eye from the natural world towards the manufactured one, the continuation of this lineage is visible in works like Jeff Koons‘ mirror-like balloon dog sculptures and Andrew “Sket-One” Yasgar‘s consumer product-based art toys, including the latter’s recent Jinro Dunny.

Sket-One’s Jinro Dunny

Delving into packaging-inspired designs for over a dozen years (learn more here), Sket-One’s Jinro Dunny is a rarity within his oeuvre due to it being an officially licensed interpretation. Co-produced by HiteJinro, a South Korean distiller and the world’s leading producer of a colorless liquor known as soju, this limited edition piece replicates aspects of the brand’s bottle for their quadruple-filtered variation of the alcoholic beverage, Chamisul (참이슬). Known for typically interjecting humor throughout the detailing, the artist restrains himself and strives instead for an elevated reimagining of the existing design, though he does add “sket” before the brand’s established “fresh” announcement.

Limited to an undisclosed quantity, including those available within HiteJinro’s native Korea, this design debuted with one being given away at a Sket-One art event on October 11th of 2018. Freely distributed to U.S. residents strictly through raffles and contests, each arrived in a wonderfully minimal box bearing the artist’s signature, accompanied by a postcard touting appreciation and a pack of stickers designed by Sket-One. Perhaps not helping to allay the skepticism of some connoisseurs who were already questioning whether the Jinro Dunny was a promotional item or work of art, it was ultimately the 8-inch tall form itself that would be the determining factor.
Manufactured on a bottleneck-eared variation of Kidrobot‘s plastic Dunny form, one must ask what makes Sket-One’s Jinro Dunny art while the bottle it’s modeled after is not? Granted that in this instance the two are not identical, as opposed to Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Juice sculpture when cursorily compared to its antecedent, but the truth between “art” and “not art” remains the same in both examples: intent. Neither Warhol’s nor Sket-One’s works were meant to contain what their exteriors declare, thus allowing the packaging design choices themselves to become the focus. Ultimately, rather than a necessarily visible difference in these cases, what makes one “art” is how their intent is not to present imitations of reality but offer forth self-contained entities, ones that require no previous knowledge to be appreciated.

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