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Gumby, a Modernist Icon?
Art Clokey, who created Gumby in the mid 1950’s, passed away the other day at the age of 88. I can’t say I was a big fan of Gumby’s. Like everyone who was six in 1965, I watched episodes in the morning before goingto school, but I remember finding them vaguely annoying and facile. Still, even today, it is interesting to look at how the characters moved and morphed. Gumby was the first stop-motion claymation on television, a fact I did not know in 1965. Nor did I know that Art Clokey had studied film in the early 1950’s at USC with Slavko Vorkapich, a pioneer of modern montage; nor that Gumby grew, literally, out of a stop-motion class project called “Gumbasia,” a sort of Fantasia-meets-Play Dough set to jazz music, that can be viewed below.
Had I recognized Gumby’s surrealist roots, I might have paid more attention to his adventures. I was completely unaware that, as I watched Gumby foil the Blockheads and pal around with Pokey, Art Clokey was getting divorced, becoming a hippie, and experimenting with LSD and other drugs.
Knowing what I do now, I still find Gumby vaguely annoying, though perhaps less facile, but I find Art Clokey far more interesting, and I look forward to seeing Gumby Dharma, a 2007 documentary about Clokey and his famous creation.