With all of the focus on Tiki music here at the Local, it’s all too easy to forget its artistic side. Thankfully, Google Books makes it just as easy to jog one’s memory on the subject.
Let’s start with Tiki Art Now! by Otto Von Stroheim and Robert Williams. In addition to its great information on all things Tiki, it kicks off the art with Dr. Alderete’s “Acapulco Tiki,” wherein an El Santo-style luchador kicks back with a Munktiki brand “Kreepy” mug. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a hard day of wrestling monsters! The other pieces of art in the preview are a mix of cool and spooky, normal Tiki and horror Tiki.
The book’s striking cover art is by one Josh Agle, better known to his fans as “Shag.” In case you’re wondering about the name, it comes from the combination of the last two letters of his first name with the first two letters of his last name. Supposedly he adopted that alias in order to make it look like his band at the time, The Swamp Zombies, could afford to hire someone else to do their albums’ cover art. In fact, a large part of the band’s creation was due to his desire to make the album art!
His simple-yet-detailed retro style has made him a smash hit, both in the world of Tiki and the art world in general. There’s even an exotica CD devoted to songs inspired by his work! Which is quite appropriate, seeing as how he was a founding member of The Tiki Tones.
But there is more to Shag than Tiki. As noted here, Mr. Agle does not want to be known as “just a Tiki artist” as they are only one of the many aspects of his work. His official website describes artwork as a “blend of hot rods, tiki heads, skeletons, voodoo lounge, and kustom kulture all rolled up in a swanky package.” His long list of influences also includes (but isn’t limited to) 60’s culture (mildly NSFW), spies, thieves (I’d love to see Shag’s take on Lupin III), blaxploitation, horror, and martial arts movies. And, as noted earlier, he often combines these to create unique and interesting (and spooky) works. If anything, Shag is a “rooms you wish you had in your home” artist.
For more on his work, please check out the following links:
Shag: The Art of Josh Agle by Josh Agle, Colin Berry, and Billy Shire.
Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag by Shag.
Shag, ltd., fine art limited editions: a catalogue raisonné by Shag, Douglas Nason, Jeremy Cushner, and Greg Escalante.
Don’t just look at the art, either. Those books are filled with fascinating interviews and writings on Mr. Agle’s work. I especially liked his observation on Tiki bars in Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag.