Entertainment

J.Balvin’s Spongebob Collaboration With Louis De Guzman And Nickelodeon Was The Most Iconic Collab Of The Decade

What exactly does a SpongeBob gallery pop-up installation look like? Especially when it includes the reggaeton megastar J. Balvin, an iconic children’s brand most millennials grew up on, and a hometown artist. Pictures on Instagram gave curious parties a hint through a series of snapshots featuring sculptures, paintings, and merchandise. But on Tuesday, Nov. 13, a number of people braved the low temperatures to find out for themselves. Let’s take a look back at the most impactful collab in 2019.Credit: Amy Tran

While visitors like Melanie Lopez were expecting to satiate their curiosity around the project, most were not prepared to have the “Mi Gente” cantante greet them in the space. The global superstar surprised guests and helped kick-off a five-day experience exclusive to Chicago. But how did this all come to be and why the Midwest of all places?

It all started at Complexcon last year where visual artist Louis De Guzman, a Chicago native who is the first from his Filipino family to be born in the United States, had a chance encounter with a Nickelodeon executive who took an interest in his work. The two discussed partnering on a project and parted ways. A short while later at the same event, the Filipino pop artist connected with J.Balvin. De Guzman says there was a mutual admiration for each other’s work and upon Balvin’s request, he slid into the singer’s DMs. The two built a friendship. Then the opportunity for them to fuse their creativity together to celebrate SpongeBob’s 20th anniversary presented itself. A partnership between Nickelodeon, J. Balvin and De Guzman happened organically.Credit: louisdeguzman / Instagram

“I was a big fan of [De Guzman] before I met him,” says Balvin. “We started talking and were like ‘why don’t we do a collab and do something with SpongeBob. [The cartoon character is] something people already know but [due to our diverse cultural background] we can add something to it. [De Guzman] is Filipino, I’m from Colombia. Exchanging cultures is beautiful.”

And so the work began with the support of arguably one of the biggest brands in children’s entertainment. 

“We’ve done many SpongeBob collaborations in many different ways with high-end designers but this was really the first time it was reimagined in this way, in this art style,” says Marielle Donahue, Director, Retail Marketing and Social Media Strategy for Nickelodeon. “SpongeBob fans love to share their fandom and I think from Louis and J. Balvin’s perspective, they wanted to share the feeling of being inspired to do whatever you can.”

Donahue says the partnership felt natural because both artists had already shown a public love and admiration for the Bikini Beach character. She also pointed out Balvin and De Guzman’s popularity among different audiences—both of which incorporate distinct cultural upbringings into their work—but they both shared a message for hope, love and positivity that aligned perfectly with the kooky sea creature. 

Credit: Amy Tran

“All three embrace positivity and good vibes,” echoes Jose Castro, Senior Vice President, Softlines and Global Fashion Collaborations at Nickelodeon 

And it’s perhaps this sentiment that will have people rooting for the project and the people behind it. 

De Guzman teared up when looking around the room and talking about the significance of the project and his motivation—his family. He hints at their struggle navigating an unfamiliar country and the difficulties that arose from their immigrant experience. Overcoming the false starts and failures are ultimately why he chooses to focus on the positive. He says time has shown him that by focusing on the work, good things will come.

Balvin shared a similar story when given the opportunity to talk about whatever he wanted. He says he wishes people would ask him why he decided to pursue a career in  music.

“It started because of my family. We went bankrupt and I was like ‘I love music’ but I didn’t know it was going to be the way to find a solution to help my family,” says Balvin. “If it wasn’t for my family and dad going bankrupt, I wouldn’t be able to be like ‘oh I have this talent and music to help them.’”

And while it might be easy to write off this corporate art partnership as nothing more than a money grab, the players behind it tell a different story.Credit: Amy Tran

“This is for the culture and God bless the Latino Gang,” said Balvin in a press release. 

And as for why Chicago got the plug it’s because “Chicago is known by so many artists, there’s so many talented people here. This is [De Guzman’s] place, it’s where he was born. He’s from the US. I was here in the U.S. you know let’s do this together. I’ll come to your place and let’s exchange vibes.”

Additional reporting contributed by Ermina Veljacic.

READ: To Celebrate Its 20th Anniversary, Spongebob Is Working With J Balvin On A Clothing Line

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If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Culture

If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Bettman Archives / Getty Images

So many of us have been moved the art of the late Frida Kahlo. Even in death she’s gone on to inspire entire generations with her Surrealist self-portraits, lush depictions of plant and animal life, and magical realist tableaux. Not to mention her incredible life story.

She also inspired future generations of artists, many of whom are alive today creating beautiful works of art. These are just a few of the artists who have similar techniques, subjects, and styles to Frida Kahlo that you’ll definitely love if you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo.

Maria Fragoso – Mexico City

Credit: Teach Me Sweet Things / Theirry Goldberg Gallery

Influenced by the style and narratives of Mexican surrealists and muralists, Maria Fragoso creates work that celebrates her Mexican culture, while also addressing notions of gender expression and queer identity. Her brightly colored canvases offer voyeuristic glimpses into intimate moments, with subjects engaging in acts that seem at once seductive and mischievous—often while gazing directly out at the viewer.

Recently featured in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” in the “Art and Style” category, the 25-year-old artist is quickly rising to prominence. Born and raised in Mexico City, Fragoso moved to Baltimore in 2015 to pursue her BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. While in school, Fragoso was the recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship at the Yale Norfolk School of Art. Since graduating, she has completed residencies at Palazzo Monti and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Nadia Waheed – Austin, Texas

Credit: Message from Janus / Mindy Solomon Gallery

Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Austin, Texas–based artist Nadia Waheed explores notions of relocation, displacement, and vulnerability in her work. Her life-size figurative paintings are both allegorical and autobiographical—the female figures represent her own lived experiences, as well as the multifaceted identities of all women.

Rodeo Tapaya – Philippines

Credit: Nowhere Man / A3 Art Agency

Rodel Tapaya paints dreamlike, narrative works based on myths and folklore from his native Philippines. Drawing parallels between age-old fables and current events, Tapaya reimagines mythical tales by incorporating fragments of the present. “In some way, I realize that old stories are not just metaphors. I can find connections with contemporary time,” Tapaya said in a 2017 interview with the National Gallery of Australia. “It’s like the myths are poetic narrations of the present.”

While the content of Tapaya’s work is inspired by Filipino culture, his style and literary-based practice is heavily influenced by Mexican muralists and Surrealist painters such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and, of course, Frida Kahlo. Often working at a large scale, Tapaya has been commissioned to create several site-specific murals, including one for Art Fair Philippines in February 2020.

Leonor Fini – Buenos Aires

Credit: Les Aveugles / Weinstein Gallery

Long overlooked in favor of male Surrealists, Leonor Fini, a contemporary of Kahlo, was a pioneering 20th-century force. Known for having lived boldly, Fini is recognized for her unconventional lifestyle, theatrical personality, and avant-garde fashion sense. Born in Buenos Aires in 1907, Fini was raised by her mother in Trieste, Italy. She taught herself to paint and first exhibited her work at the age of 17.

Fini had one of her first solo exhibitions at age 25 with a Parisian gallery directed by Christian Dior. Her work was then included in the groundbreaking exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism” at MoMA in 1936, while at the same time she had her first New York exhibition with Julien Levy Gallery. Today, Fini’s work is represented in many major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Ramon Alejandro – Miami

Credit: Eternal Life / Latino Art Core

José Ramón Díaz Alejandro, better known as Ramon Alejandro, paints idyllic still lifes of tropical fruits set in ethereal landscapes. The surrealistic compositions have a similar spirit to Kahlo’s less iconic but equally masterful still-life works

Coming from a long lineage of artists, Alejandro grew up with the artworks of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle adorning the walls of his childhood home. After growing up in Havana, Alejandro was sent to live in Argentina in 1960 amidst political turmoil in Cuba, and has continued to live in exile since then.

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Fans Think This Photo Of Barbie Is Proof She’s An Out And Proud Lesbian

Entertainment

Fans Think This Photo Of Barbie Is Proof She’s An Out And Proud Lesbian

Mattel/ Instagram

The fact that the early days of Barbie were not quite so inclusive to all of us comes as no surprise. The blonde, impossibly figured doll with a penchant for similar-looking friends is a far cry away from the Barbie of today who has friends of all shapes, races, sizes, sexual identities, and abilities. Even better, today’s Barbie crew includes dolls who give queer children a broader playgound for their imagination.

Recently, Barbie has added a new addition to her friend group whose bringing more power to her LGTBQ fans.

Social media has dubbed the LGBTQ positive Aimee Song doll Barbie‘s girlfriend.

Twitter’s latest excitement is about a theory that Barbie and Aimee Song are dating. Photos of Mattel’s doll Aimee Song doll show her wearing a “Love Wins” T-shirt that supports LGBTQ+ rights. The Mattel doll was inspired by fashion blogger Aimee Song and recently caught renewed attention in a viral post shared to Twitter.

The “Love Wins” photos are only now going viral but were actually released in November 2017.

The photos of Barbie and the Aimee doll were shared to Twitter last Monday by user @kissevermore and now has Twitter debating whether the two are dating.

The pictures of Barbie and Aimee show the two dolls eating avocado toast. petting a dog, and smiling at each other. The images have fans questioning when Barbie came out and how she managed to nail a hot girlfriend before they did.

Even REAL Aimee Song weighed in on the images to confirm the relationship.

“I am the girlfriend,” she tweeted with a photo of herself and the Aimee Song doll. 

While Mattel has yet to officially identify Barbie as a lesbian, the original Instagram posts related to the Love Wins Barbies are proof that she is at least an ally.

Confirmed or not, true or not, one of the best parts of Barbie is that she is meant to be whoever her fans want her to be.

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