At times the mind reels at the talent located in PDX. Turn any damp corner in town and you’ll find it. From the high-profile design gurus of Weiden + Kennedy, Nike and Plazm to the indie stars in UNKL, Junktown and Stumptown Press, you can’t lift a mossy log without some genius with a backpack full of pencils crawling out. I’m not the only one who feels this way. All throughout Portland there are companies of all sizes and agendas that are taking advantage of local talent and making their way in the world outside puddle town. Take LAIKA, for instance. This small design and animation firm has been turning up rain-drenched talent in Portland longer than most, and making a nice name for themselves in the meantime.
Established in Portland for more than 30 years now, the former Wil Vinton Studios – most famous for those mid-’80s claymation icons the California Raisins – LAIKA/house is a self-described “dynamic community of filmmakers, designers and animators.” LAIKA has its hand in every aspect of animation and design, working in short- and feature-length formats, CG, stop motion and traditional animation styles. Best known for its commercial work, we have this “dynamic community” to thank for three out of your five favorite animated commercials, with clients ranging from M&Ms to Macy’s, Honda, Coke, MTV and They Might Be Giants. LAIKA’s range of work is almost overwhelming.
But in their off time, how dynamic is LAIKA, really?
It was nice to see Tyler Stout represented. His poster design is unique and psychedelic in Portland, and seeing silkscreen that’s not advertising anything is a distinct pleasure these days. Courtney Booker, whose recent show at Homestar was one of my favorites in recent memory, and her “Untitled # 1-3” with their collage qualities and graf influences were some of the strongest pieces in the show. Jon Klassen’s “Finally and It Really Would Be” as well as Chris Applehan’s “Sandcreek” and “Boston Common” showed the immense level of non-PDX talent LAIKA also attracts, these two artists being two of the most engaging professional illustrators in the U.S.