Toys and Art
03/24/2011 09:00 PM Filed in: Blog
This blog is about my obsession with toys. No–let me more rephrase that and say toys that happen to be high art. I realize that many people might disagree with me on that point but I plan to change your mind in this article.
Most of you know that I'm a huge toy collector. I've always loved toys. Even as a child, I didn't want every toy on the market, but rather the ones that I thought were aesthetically pleasing. I would pass over a toy that was popular because it just didn't look cool to me. My GI JOE army was a strange amalgam of good guys, bad guys, and toys that I took apart to re-assemble in a fashion that I thought was best. Certain heads just didn't look right on certain bodies and some arms and torsos worked better on a different set of legs. By the time I got done compiling my forces, they pretty much all worked for a unified "Army of the Cool" and usually fought against a potpourri of the worst figures I'd get as a gift (the ones I didn't pick out for myself).
Even at 12 years old certain things bugged the hell out of me. Take for example "Big Boa", the GI Joe Figure. He was a cobra boxer that happened to wear a spiked helmet. I thought the figure was one of the most ridiculous figures I'd ever seen. After all, what pugilist worth his salt would want to punch a guy with metal spikes on his head? This was no doubt one of the dumbest toy ideas ever. Nonetheless, I bought it for the boxing gloves, helmet, and legs. I gave the Village People torso to some other poor figure who no doubt became a Frankenstein of molded plastic–surely to be swiftly defeated by my army of well dressed bad asses. I remember that his head went to the pilot of the Night Raven (I always thought his head was too small for his body). His legs went to someone else too (although I can't remember). His boxing gloves ended up in the arsenal bin with the usual collection of green MP5s, grey AK47s, and backpacks–I guess on the mittens of whichever Cobra or GI Joe that wanted to slug it out after a long hard fought war....
But I digress.... This article is about fine art. And although my disdain for this figure shows a certain understanding of aesthetic cohesiveness at a prepubescent age, it's not exactly my modern interpretation of fine art.
Enter the modern era.
I'm 36 and I still collect toys. Although I'm still using my keen eye to determine what's good and what's not so good, I'm a little more informed about what I purchase and where it comes from. As the owner of a toy store (pladdtoys.com), I have to be.
This brings me to my current topic of discussion. Over the last few days, I've called my good friend Rob (who is a fellow Art-Toy enthusiast) to discuss the new Indiana Jones that's being released by Hot Toys. Seriously, I've called him about three days in a row about this very subject. When I bought my last Indiana Jones figure, I didn't take as strong of an interest but this particular release was cause for celebration and praise.
Because the artist that sculpted the figure was none other than Arnie Kim–a Korean sculptor whose career I've been following for over five years. Arnie's figures go far beyond a normal toy. They are truly miniature sculptures. Arnie has a way of capturing emotional moments in clay and then perfectly transforming those moments into a plastic medium that becomes mass produced collectibles. Some traditional art aficianados may consider mass production or the term "collectible" as reasonable discourse for a work eliminating itself as art. I couldn't disagree more. As a musician, I've produced thousands of exact copies of the same record. I dare say that the 700th copy was any less artistic than the first. I liken the topic to that of a fine print. Ashlee and I have an autographed John Lennon print in our living room. It's #921 of 5000 prints. Artists sell prints of their work all of the time. Bronze artists mould and sell copies of their work all of the time.
You know why? To make a living. Try selling one of anything and see how that works out for your livelihood.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's focus on the shear artistry of his work.
About five years ago I got interested in an artistic movement known as Hyper Realism. One of my favorite artists of this genre is Ron Mueck. Ron's work is without a doubt some of the most visceral work you can observe. His attention to detail goes beyond belief, earning him the title of hyper realist sculptor. His work Two Women pictured to the left is one of my favorite works. Believe it or not, the women are only about 24 inches tall from head to toe. That makes it even more amazing.
I don't know if it was the discovery of Arnie Kim that led me to Ron Mueck, or if the Discovery of Ron Mueck led me to Arnie Kim, but eventually I found both while looking for neither. Either way, they both create fine art. To see more of Ron's work, Google his name. You'll be amazed at what you find.
One of Arnie's earliest works that I saw was his Indiana Jones 12" figure and his sculpt of Tom Hanks from Saving Private Ryan. I noticed a strong interest in American Pop Culture and movies and a very strong interest in Bruce Lee in particular.
Arnies sculpts of Bruce Lee are examples of some of his best work. They don't look like plastic. They don't look like other "off the shelf" sculpts. Most of all, they don't look like toys.... but they are. The image to the left is a mass produced Arnie Kim sculpt sold as a toy by Enterbay, a toy manufacturer–it's not a photo of Bruce Lee.
As you can see by the quality of his work, Arnie is a master sculptor and a true artist. I'm a big fan of everything he does so it's no surprise that I was happy to finally get to purchase some of his art. I've ordered 4 Indiana Jones figures for Pladd Dot Toys. I will keep one for myself.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I should probably get a Bruce Lee or two as well.
I hope this helps you see toys as more than just toys these days. With the attention to detail put into each one, there are teams of artists working to ensure a quality work.
See the rest of this amazing sculpt HERE