Ah, the 90s. A time of democracy, rock ‘n roll, hip hop, American wealth, and the carefree days of the early internet. We see those days now, looking back through rose-tinted lenses, as the last decade of true innocence. Death and destruction only existed on the 11 o’clock news. Our sitcoms and cartoons satiated us and kept us safe from the hideous dangers of the larger world.
But if we took off those rose-tinted glasses we’d probably see that our world wasn’t quite as pristine as we remembered. In a way, that’s exactly what artist Paul Ribera has done with his latest works, a series of beloved 1990s cartoon characters depicted as down-and-out drug addicts. With this, he’s sufficiently tuned many people’s childhoods, but has also given us a dose of reality some may not have experienced.
These frightening, pop-colored images take these characters, probably quite comforting in some’s formative years, and gleefully defiles them, though not without purpose. By doing this, he shoves his audience headlong into a place where they may have to consider what hides lurks the gloss of the things we love.
Ribera told the Huffington Post, “I grew up in the small town of Barstow, CA (or as my friends and I call it ‘Bat Country’),” he wrote. “My friends and I are fans of the movie ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ as well as the punkcore music scene and that stemmed my interest into the drug lifestyle. I, personally, have been interested in the effects of drugs and what it does to people and, unfortunately, in the town I live in, it’s a way of life.”
He said, “These cartoons are what I (and pretty much all kids of the ’90s) used to watch and I thought… ‘Man, what if these people characters were from here?’ I was watching old reruns one day while I was drawing and I decided to go as dark as hell with it and let the popular images the world knows turn into what I’ve seen on a daily basis for the past twenty years,”
And there you have it. Your childhood decimated. Or reinvigorated, depending on what kind of person you are.
You can get prints here.