Carded show touts art by the five-pack

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      Collectible and affordable, these small works range in tone from the cutesy to the gritty

      It’s hard to believe that Jim Hoehnle and Chris Bentzen didn’t grow up collecting hockey cards. Watching them gleefully pick at a deck of prototypes for their upcoming art show, Carded, you’d expect the two local curators to be well versed in all things Upper Deck and O-Pee-Chee. Although Bentzen admits to owning a small hand-me-down collection as a kid, Hoehnle says he never got swept up by the pastime.

      “I grew up really poor,” he deadpans from a Commercial Drive coffeehouse before letting out a hearty laugh. “By the time I had my own money, I was buying cigarettes.”

      Despite their pasts, the two are excited to present the one-night affair on Saturday (January 24), at Little Mountain Studios (195 East 26th Avenue), showcasing the work of 50 artists in trading-card form. The exhibit is a natural progression from Hot One Inch Action, the equally collectible-focused show the pair started in 2004 involving one-inch buttons. After five successful shows, however, Hoehnle felt the initial project had run its course.

      “You can’t keep throwing the same party,” he explains. “We decided that we wanted to change it up a bit and bring in a new element.”

      Carded is driven by audience participation. Viewers can buy five-card packs throughout the evening for $5. But because each set has been selected randomly, patrons are encouraged to trade for their favourite pieces.

      “It’s like the stock market,” Bentzen notes of the exhibit’s interactivity. “There will be moments in the night where something will be worth a lot, but later on everybody’s got them and nobody wants them anymore.”

      It’s hard to say which cards will be sought-after, but with submissions ranging from cutesy mixed-media illustrations to gritty photographs, it’s safe to say that the largely local series is extremely diverse.

      Vancouver-based Jeff Denomme pays homage to old-school sports-card designs with the chunky borders of Arby. Sporting a hot-pink pirate-like character glumly fishing from a patched-up inner tube, the card’s retro layout is about the only thing that tips its hat to classic collectibles.

      “I used to like hockey cards when I was a kid,” the designer says from his cellphone. “They’re designed like little advertisements. I like that.”

      Fittingly, Denomme used the back of his card to promote his Haunted Zoo clothing line, which emblazons his characters onto T-shirts.

      Most of the artists, however, are just happy to show off their work. Winnipeg illustrator Leslie Supnet is proud of her submission, the eerie Night Shift.

      “It’s a little more intricate than what I usually have,” she states from her home.

      In the drawing, an oblivious elfin crowd drinks and dances in a snow-covered forest, as a giant bear snatches up one of their friends. However adorably drawn the anthropomorphic animal is (like a lumberjack, it wears a snug plaid shirt and cuffed jeans), the sullen look in its eyes, not to mention the ominous set of keys it holds in its paws, suggests something sinister.

      “Someone once said that my work is like a sweet nightmare,” Supnet tells the Straight. “I’m heavily inspired by old children’s animation and illustration, but I put my own dark twist to it.”

      No matter the style, whether cute or creepy, curator Hoehnle is thrilled that Carded will feature pieces by emerging artists in an affordable format.

      “Far too often you’ll go to a show in Vancouver and see some local work, and even though the work is priced at 100 to 250 bucks, it’s still out of your price range,” he says. “Here’s a chance for people to collect some work in an easy, fun way.”