This post has been fluttering around in my head being mentally written and rewritten since the opening, and judging, of Toy Art Gallery's "first annual" juried, open call, custom resin toy show. With witty post titles such as, "WTF was that?", "TAG: Toys that Aren't Good", and my personal favorite "I give up", the words and criticism flowed easily and intensely. But as I sit here now, calmer, and without the unbridled negativity at the forefront of my mind, I find it difficult to articulate what it was exactly that came very close to offending me about the show as a whole.
I think what I would like to do rather than focus on all the pieces in the show that simply had no business being there, or drawing attention to the incredible lack of basic casting skill that a good percentage of the submitting artists displayed, I'd rather talk about the flawed idea of the show itself and what the prospect of it being an annual event says about the scene going forward. In short, fans of good resin are screwed. Is that statement hyperbolic and an over exhageration? Youbetcha. But if you were standing in that room, surrounded by an uncomfortable amount of this:
you would likely feel the same. Guess how much this last piece was listed for. Go ahead, I'll wait. Wrong. $120. Starting to see where the rage and fear is coming from? Believe it or not, there was defense of this piece among the visitors to the show. There were people saying, with a straight face, that it was "supposed to look like it was made by someone who didn't know how to sculpt."
While that does sound like a crap excuse for crap work, there are very good examples of this justification being true and used to great effect. The Sucklord, who also had a couple of pieces in the show, is a great example of a resin artist whose product is intentionally jaggy in ways that give the pieces charm and are clearly key to his style. The Sucklord piece below is a fair example of that. He's a master of using jank as a calling card.
It's at this point that I'll get back on track and continue with one simple question that I believe will go a long way to helping you understand where I'm coming from: Are there more than one person in the world who would want to pay money and own and display any of the four pieces shown above? If your answer is no, then you must agree with me that they did not belong in the show. That they did not warrant being molded and they did not warrant the waste of resin they were cast in. All four of these (and believe me, there were many more that fall in this category) would have been just fine painted up Super Sculpey figures given to grandma but by molding and casting them you are saying to the world that your piece is so good that multiple people will want, no, need to own it. And that is fairly simply not the case here.
Maybe my understanding of the show itself is off, it wouldn't be the first time, but the problems evident were twofold:
1) With the venue: If you are going to have a juried show, where you would like established, legitimate artists to submit quality work, you cannot also have the contest open to little Billy and the rest of his second grade classmates to submit their art period projects. There is no special honor or recognition in simply having a piece in an open call show. You weren't asked. No one called out to you and said hey, Billy, saw that father's day mug you made in ceramics with your mom. Want to make a "toy" next? No. Little Billy's greatest accomplishment was packing his piece securely in a cardboard box and managing to write out the mailing address correctly. Congratulations, you're in an art show.
2) With the artist: I had the opportunity to speak with a known voice in this scene "off the record" (and so who shall remain nameless though I think, quite honestly, he's being pretty cowardly to request that), about the quality of the work in the show. While we agreed that some of it was of a higher quality than others, he refused to go as far as to say that anything was actually bad. His argument was that he believed artists know when their work is bad and if it was bad, they wouldn't have submitted it to the show. The faults in that logic rival the Grand Canyon as I'm sure you can see by the four pieces above. The problem is that people all too often do not have the ability to be honest about their own product. Hell, I think this is the greatest blog ever. I mean, it is, right? But seriously, he was not willing to be openly judgmental about the pieces in a juried art show. You get the craziness of that position too I hope.
If you're going to put your work into a show that was devised under the premise of judgment, then you'd better be ready to hear that your work is bad if it is. Likewise, if it's good then you should by all means be praised to the high heavens to make sure you get the motivation to keep producing. The two artists at the top of this post will learn nothing by remaining sheltered from criticism. They had to have, they should have, known that quality artists would be submitting pieces and to have the balls to think something like those above could compete is asinine and an insult to the craft, and to the people out there who make it their life's work to produce amazing art. Why the likes of Arbito (who placed first) or Paul Kaiju (placed second) would even want their work associated with schlock is beyond me. I guess gift cards are hard to come by these days.
So I'm going to leave you now with a few pictures of the pieces from the show that did belong, that did show some skill in their creation, and that I could see more than one person wanting to own. Grandma included. These aren't all of the good stuff, in fact I'm not even posting a picture of the one pice that I bought. This is just a taste. If you'd like to see more of the less-than-stellar stuff I highly recommend you hit up Jeremy Brautman and Spanky Stokes to look over the preview shots from the show. I couldn't bring myself to post them here. I'm sure both of those guys will be (if they haven't already) doing their own posts about the show as both of them were judges, along with Ayleen and George Gaspar (of October Toys and Toy Break fame), and the super-star sculptress and resin slinger, Julie B (of LA's own Pretty In Plastic). All in all I had a really great night. Good art or bad art, it is always wonderful to be around creative people and while not many of the participating artists were in attendance, I was honored to spend a good amount of time with the group of judges and the amount of knowledge, skill, and passion they all have is infectious and an absolute joy to be around.
You'll notice that there aren't any names attached to these pictures. So sue me, I don't do this professionally, I do this for giggles. You want facts check out the links on the right, I don't deal in those annoyances. Now, sit back, and sock in the art.
With the above picture you also get a nice, sneaky-peek of Spanky ass. You're welcome.
The above was my favorite piece of the show. Beautiful, clean sculpt and great paint.
And here are some random pictures from the evening. Great people and great times.
Yeah, that's Julie and Jeremy both pimping official (and acquired mere minutes before hand) judging hats. Gavels were also involved, though not pictured here. Clearly Ayleen felt it better to block their silliness from her gaze. There was important work to be done!
And then there was food.
And feisty rebellion.