Gus Fring, by Anthony Petrie / Image courtesy Sony Pictures Television.
BY SHARYN JACKSON
WARNING: This post contains spoilers about season four of “Breaking Bad.”
There are many things that appear in the AMC series “Breaking Bad” that we wouldn’t recommend bringing into your home: crystal meth, body-dissolving liquids, vacuum bags full of cash. But limited-edition posters inspired by iconic moments on the critically acclaimed show about a high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook? That seems safe enough.
The Los Angeles-based Gallery 1988 has partnered with AMC on the Breaking Bad Art Project, a campaign that rolls out a new show-related graphic each week for 16 weeks. (So far, 10 have been revealed.) The screen-printed posters go for $50 each and only the first 200 buyers get to snag one at this website. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
Gallery 1988’s Jensen Karp approached AMC about the campaign, which promotes “Breaking Bad”s fifth season, premiering this Sunday. Karp then went to his stable of graphic artists with an assignment.
Tom Whalen, a Philadelphia-based “retro-modern” artist was given three weeks to complete a poster inspired by the elderly cartel leader Tio Hector Salamanca. Whalen had never seen the show, and had to quickly study up on the non-speaking character.
“On a quick surface scan, I knew that bell was so iconic,” said Whalen, referring to Hector’s only form of communication, a bicycle bell attached to his wheelchair. “I didn’t think the character lent himself to someone hanging him on their wall because he was such a weird-looking guy, so I wanted to do a bold take on the bell.”
For the poster, Whalen zoomed right in on Hector’s right index finger, about to push down on the bell.
Whalen began his “Breaking Bad” education by first watching the incendiary season-four finale, in which the bell plays a prominent role. He has since gone back and watched the entire series.
“Even knowing how it went down, just to see the buildup to that point was exciting,” said Whalen. “I’m a huge fan now.”
Anthony Petrie, a Rhode Island-based designer, hadn’t watched the show, either, before he got the big assignment of drawing Walter White’s boss, Gus Fring. It was his first professional commission.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure being such a pivotal moment of the show, and it being my first professionally commissioned print,” said Petrie, who “burned through” the series in two weeks.
The image that resulted is a depiction of Gus after the explosion in the “Face Off” episode. Always dapper in his blue suit, the now one-eyed drug king is holding the also one-eyed pink teddy bear that has been appearing since the second season.
Explained Petrie: “After watching the series, I noticed a visual connection between the Pink Teddy Bear with half of his face missing and Gus Fring's face after the explosion. Also, for a lot of the series, the bear watches, judges, and taunts Walt. I felt like this was not only a parallel to Gus' constant monitoring, but a foreshadowing of his fate. The background obviously represents the explosion that ultimately got the best of Gus, but is also a nod to the sheets of meth that get broken up in his lab. He is in a pose much like you would see on a body in a coffin, only Gus’ final bed is on the meth that ultimately led to his demise.”
Who needs a pastoral Monet knock-off, when you can frame that and hang it over your fireplace?
For more on “Breaking Bad,” see Neal Justin’s interview with series creator Vince Gilligan in Sunday’s Star Tribune.