In their 20-year-career, Los Angeles cheer purveyors Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III have made Coachella kawaii via candy-colored stage sets for J. Balvin. They joined forces with Pharrell to build Netflix the animated blockbuster True and the Rainbow Kingdom, and populated the metaverse with the fRiENDSiES web3 community. They even achieved Peanuts levels of populism with Little Cloud, their 30-foot float in this year’s Macy’s Day Parade. “Culture has a way of materializing what we need, and what we need is uplifting and optimistic,” Sandoval once told the New York Times.
Now, they’ve aimed even higher. At this year’s Miami Art Week, Starchild landed in Henry Liebman Square. The city of Miami Beach commissioned the 50-foot steel sculpture, which looks sort of like if Alexander Girard had designed a Wicker Man. But Starchild is no pagan harbinger of destruction. With its bright orange outstretched arms and radiating head, the “warrior of fire” Starchild transforms with an atmospheric kiss Earth as we know it into OCEAN, a whole new world of peace, joy, and a kinder cast of characters than the ones currently running things.
The mythology will perhaps become clearer via not one but two shows of new work at Art Basel Miami Beach, where their kaleidoscopic paintings of intersecting cartoon icons and fluffy brand of pop sculptures coaxed flocks of collectors to the Nanzuka Gallery and GAVLAK booths. Those looking for more gobbled up their new Friend line of custom jewelry and apparel, or volleyed for one of the 500 miniature iterations of Starchild, each packaged with more details of the origin story-cum-prophesy: “Starchild exists in every living being on OCEAN,” the legend goes, “and if you close your eyes, you can see its light still bright in you.”