We first encountered A.T. Pratt at an art fair where he was set up like an extravagant snake oil salesman but instead of pushing hollow elixirs, he casually hid behind the sloped brim of a black stetson and offered a Pandora's box of dizzying paper works that had erupted on the table and were as much sculpture as they were illustrative cartoons. We were instantly smitten. If art is a way to capture and communicate the state of the world in an aesthetic and engaging manner, we can imagine no truer artist than Pratt.
A self-declared "cartoon tycoon", Pratt creates elaborate drawings that are simultaneously whimsical and deeply disturbing. Take his character Bompi (who Pratt, with the straightforwardness of a passerby responding to a request for the time, informed us is "America's Favorite Bouncy Boy"). Bompi is a pink creature with the amorphous curves of Flubber and the unwavering positive disposition of a masochistic chocolate eclair who somehow finds himself (yes we confirmed this pronoun) the victim of a variety of ill fates, a few shockingly graphic although he doesn't seem to mind. Adorable? Undoubtably. Traumatizing? Perhaps. Addictive? 100% (see if you can spot him hiding in the top right of the woven snake piece coming up later on!)
But let's focus on the artistry of Pratt's creations. The visuals are outstanding. Impossibly nuanced and dramatically graphic, the colorful illustrations alone are striking and refreshingly unrestrained. What we love most, however, is the incorporation of pop-up book like paper folding that is beyond pure decoration, making each piece sculptural and interactive. Cut-outs turn static spans of paper into shadowed cavities, that sometimes reveal previews to secondary story lines, and angular folds that create numerous stairs to nowhere or perhaps somewhere (we are never really sure and it's incredible).
Most pieces are littered with symbolism, which reveals to us that Pratt has a palpable clarity on the complexities and hypocrisies of life. Take the incredible two-toned work above in which a castle dwelling mouse, Miggy, avoids a close encounter with a grim reaper named Griever—who we learn is both sad and bad at his job—only to find himself dead at the hand of a string of horrible nightmares stemming from an insecurity that "while the presentation is original, the story lacks substance". It's gold (literally and figuratively). Pratt manages to communicate this narrative with only a few bubbles of dialog intertwined with almost indiscernible drawings, all of which are crammed on a single sheet of paper. The result is an impactful and genuinely pretty piece of art.
Our favorite of Pratt's pop-up series is a commentary on the futility of climbing the corporate ladder. Cut out dragon-esq snakes are woven through alternating strips of uneven accordion folds as a nod to the geometry of a Chutes and Ladders board. Instead of ladder rungs, Pratt utilizes the delineating quality of squares to illustrate office building windows which, when repeated, form a mesmerizing cityscape. A visually attractive parody of life, this is art in its purest form.
Take a moment to look through Pratt's portfolio and let his visions enlighten you.