Chris Uphues, Rainbow, Hearts and Paper Hearts

In addition to a thriving street art practice that includes putting hearts and cute doodle faces on everything from farm silos to city walls, artist Chris Uphues also makes little printed goods. This week, we’re checking out two of Uphues’ zines as well as a selection of day-glo colored hearts printed on stiff cardboard stock. Kind of like a warped version of a kindergarten bulletin board, these little mementos are sweet but not without their creepy side. A zine made up on Uphues’ doodles on paint chip cards, ranging from pink to yellow to green, blue and purple, has more than a few scenes of freaky psychedelia, a softer version of Kenny Scharf’s zaniness.

Chris Uphues will paint on anything — from Wooster Collective, check out an interview with the artist, plus a selection of his cartoony faces painted onto corrugated steel silos. In the short interview, the artist says that his ideal home would be in Japan. The kawaii force is strong with this jedi artist. The printed hearts in particular are perfect examples of Superflat, glossy surfaces with perfectly formed bubble eyes and smiling mouths. Yet there’s also something grotesque about the hearts, something about how far their eyes stretch up and the strange idea of an orifice on a heart. Yuck. Elementary school valentines these are not.

The artist’s small Hearts zine (seen above at right) is 100 percent cute. Accompanied by quick sketches of ambulatory hearts, as the pages turn a message is spelled out: “Hey! Don’t forget, I love you!”. Awwwww. Now that I wouldn’t hesitate to give my grandma. The other little goodie is a zine called Rainbow, which sees the artist creating images for each colored square of a paint chip book. There’s a poetry to how the images relate to the vague, suggestive names given to the colors. “Blue Opulence” is a stately crystalline form in dark blue, “Meadowlands” (seen above) presents the silhouettes of two evergreens set against a yellow evening sky and “Shrimp Bisque” is a boyish figure eating soup. “Nymph Green” is a naked fairy that looks a little too young to not be creepy and “Blazing Blue” is a guy making to shoot himself. There’s a dark side to the work, too.

Uphues’ doodle aesthetic and his balancing act between morbid and joyful reminds me of comic artist James Kochalka, he of American Elf fame. Just when you think you’re getting all there is to get from the work’s cutesy side, out comes a depth of feeling or a weirdness that wasn’t there at first glance. Check out more of the Uphues’ work at his website as well as Andrew Rafacz Gallery, and see more photos below.

Chris Uphues printed products are available online at Penelope’s and in person at Desert Island book shop (540 Metropolitan Ave in Brooklyn).

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...