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Tripping out

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Arizona artists Oliver and Spencer Hibert bring their uniquely psychedelic paintings to the Womb.

BY BECKY CARMAN

During the summer of 2011, the landscape of downtown OKC changed forever when a humble building on Ninth Street transformed into a brilliantly colored and vaguely offensive landmark. For the common commuter, the swath of rainbows and pink was baffling, but for fans of The Flaming Lips, it was no surprise at all.

A pet project of the Lips camp, what used to be a garage is now a candy-coated, freaky wonderland, replete with a claw machine that sometimes holds humans, a room you enter through a vagina-shaped door and a boutique — Tulsa’s successful Dwelling Spaces opened a satellite in Womb Gallery one year ago.

What the Womb also holds, though, is independent art shows from renowned artists, viewable to the public at no charge and welcomed to town by wild parties.

The kid-friendly rainbows and cartoon bears of Michele Romo’s recent exhibition are long gone, and Arizona brothers Oliver and Spencer Hibert have taken over the gallery space for a collaborative showing titled BAD TRIP. In the days leading up to opening night, Coyne spoke with Oliver Hibert about the show inside the gallery, against the backdrop of Hibert’s own paintings and exclusively for Oklahoma Gazette.

Some people label me as a pop artist, but I’m not really dealing with pop culture.

— Oliver Hibert

“There was a book that I discovered in Barcelona, a book about psychedelic art, and you were one of the artists in there,” Coyne said. “You were the one I kept going back to over and over and over.”

A conversation between Coyne and Hibert ensued, and one of Hibert’s paintings is now the cover for a limited-release record by the Lips. It’s a fitting match, as both Hiberts’ works are fantastical but meticulous — and, yes, you could probably describe them as psychedelic, though Oliver shies away from genre labels.

“Some people label me as a pop artist, but I’m not really
dealing with pop culture. I’m kind of in my own thing, trying to escape
the world a little bit, maybe,” Hibert said. “People can call it what
they want because they take it in differently than I might. It’s just
art.”

Coyne spoke in detail about Hibert’s style and summed it up in a single word: precision.

“I
like to make work where you ask yourself if that was actually made by
somebody’s hand,” Hibert said. “I’ve always kind of seen things like
that. When you’re supposed to draw nudes realistically, I was always
drawing the outlines. I take a lot of time to be very specific. It’s a
sickness.”

Hibert also
described his process for choosing color palettes: mixing his own
acrylics and doing canvas tests while mapping out new pieces to ensure
his fluorescents, skin tones and blood reds are just right.

As Coyne put it, “With you, we know there’s millions of shades, but [you chose] this one.”

That fastidiousness, along with Hibert’s exacting lines and even hand, makes his work seem digital until you’re up close.

“That’s
what’s impressive about it,” Coyne explained. “You get used to seeing
this done with a computer or something, or before there were computers,
something in a machine that was better than people.”

Coyne
is an avid visual artist and collector. An office space housed in the
Womb has a large Damien Hirst spin painting as its drop ceiling. This
obsession might explain his excitement about OKC checking out the
Hiberts’ work in the flesh.

“It’s
a wonderful world that we live in that lets us know someone like Oliver
and his brother and lets us have a space where he can bring his
paintings. We can spend a couple days together and make a real
experience and show out of it,” Coyne said.

“Come
down to the Womb; you get to see all this. There’s something very
potent about seeing real art in real life that’s different than just
seeing it online or in a magazine or something like that. There’s a
power.”

See the exclusive Oklahoma Gazette video interview with Coyne and Hibert at okgazette.com.

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