For aficionados of the Japanese film genre known as kaiju, there is arguably only one concept that surpasses a giant monster rampaging across a city, and that is two or more gargantuan creatures battling one another. A staple of this cinema genre, even those with the most passing interest have probably been exposed to the likes of 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, or 1968’s battle royale Destroy All Monsters. And evolving this premise off of the silver screen and into an art exhibition space, Death’s Vault Gallery presents their newest showcase, All Out War: ISH vs MVH, pitting relative designer toy newcomer Justin Ishmael‘s ISH brand against gallery owner Rich Montanari Jr’s Mutant Vinyl Hardcore alias.

Who are Justin Ishmael & Rich Montanari Jr?

After six years as Creative Director and CEO at Mondo, Ishmael departed the position in 2015 to turn his proven business acumen towards more personal endeavors, such as his ISH brand. Under this guise, Ishmael’s developed vinyl sculpture interpretations of officially licensed properties, such as Galligantus, the two-headed giant from the 1962 film Jack the Giant Killer as reimagined by Ron Cobb for the 1968 Yearbook cover to Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as other artists’ designs, like Craig Gleason‘s The Ghoul. In contrast, Montanari focuses on self-producing his own original creature creations in vinyl, his over a decade-long career within the designer toy movement having resulted not only in acclaim for his hand-painted works but also an established array of monstrous forms in his arsenal. And all feigned battle context from All Out War aside, Ishmael and Montanari square off against one another creatively in this exhibit, each tackling not only their own forms but also those of their ‘adversary’.

An Overview of All Out War: ISH vs MVH

The Entrance

In response to a recent surge of his creations being bootlegged in China, Montanari gifted foam hands emblazoned with “Fuck MVH Bootlegs” to the first one-hundred people that RSVP’d to the exhibition. Transforming the traditionally raised index finger into an extended middle finger, these perfectly present a light-hearted encapsulation of the artist’s attitude towards these subpar bootlegs surfacing.

The First Display Shelf

This selection of matching Berserker and Galligantus were hand-painted by Montanari in a style he refers to as war boy. Each initially decorated in a clean selection of sprayed paint applications, these are finished with dry brush detailing that leaves flairs and featherings along the edges in their wake. Creating a finished aesthetic reminiscent to tribal patterning, as if these added paints were applied by the creature’s own hand, this series leaves a striking first impression through their varied colorations of the same base design. And standing in front of these pieces are Galligantus Mini figures from Ishmael, their corpse paint inspired appearance splashed with splotches of blood red as their long ponytails of doll hair arc backwards.

The Second Display Shelf

Bookended by sets of Galligantus and Galligantus Mini exquisitely rendered in matching hand-painted decorations by Montanari, Ishmael contributed three works that most aptly visualize the title of this exhibition. Titled collectively as Galligantus Hunter Berserkers, this aptly named ‘tribe’ of creations’ sole goal in life is to kill Galligantus monstrosities. With the one in the middle known as First Kill, eluding to how the Galligantus impaled by its trident is the result of this Berserker’s first successful hunt, while the other two are the Galligantus Hunter Berserker Twins, experienced predators who wear salvaged parts from defeated prey as tropies.

The Displayed Micro Editions

In addition to all the uniquely painted renditions exhibited throughout this showcase, both artists contributed extremely limited edition versions of ISH produced pieces, including several colorations of The Ghoul and a special marbled presentation of Galligantus. In addition to these pieces, a series of hand-printed posters featuring the Galligantus vs. Berserker art by Ken Landgraf were also displayed.

The Third Display Shelf

Beyond the diverse selection of pieces made wholly unique through their varied paint applications, Ishmael further intermingles the two primary characters employed herein by adding a black vinyl Galligantus facemask onto one of his Berserker contributions to create a new sculptural profile. Featuring a skull-like white decoration over its face that was inspired by Rob Liefeld‘s comic book character Chapel, this piece stands alongside several memoral works including two Galligantus with matching Galligantus Mini sets.

The Fourth Display Shelf

Amid a sea of Berserker and Galligantus creations by the artists, Ishmael has two hand-painted renditions of Montanari’s Dokuro Head DX Sludge Demon form. With one adorned in purple stripes and wide eyes reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat, the other is attired in Galligantus parts that capture the aesthetic of cheap Halloween costuming, such as that produced by Ben Cooper, Inc. A briliant touch of added nostalgia. This shelf also displays the fourth and final pair of figures that Montanari employed his war boy style on for the exhibition, the striking metallic green of them allowing the bright orange pops to immediately attract one’s gaze.

The Fifth Display Shelf

Through the continuous use of the Berserker and Galligantus forms throughout the exhibition, both artists delve into how color choices and application techniques can radically alter the emphasized aspects of the sculpt. One can observe this clearly here, where Ishmael displays six Galligantus Mini pieces in a row, their duplicate forms taking on extraordinarily diverse resonances strictly through their decoration.

The Sixth Display Shelf

With a rainbow array of metallic hues perfectly balanced against opaque paint applications, this final display shelf includes one form hereunto unseen: the Cinegantus. Made by placing a Galligantus head atop one of Joe Merrill‘s Cinema Monster bodies, this single-headed creature’s appearance was inspired by the Green Giant from the 1970 film Equinox. And, like everything seen herein, this beast appears ready for all out war.

The Life-Sized Sludge Demon Prototype

As a parting treat for those in attendance, Montanari revealed the prototype of his Life-Sized Sludge Demon creation. Being produced by Clutter Studios, it was revealed that these rotocast resin sculptures were “Coming Soon”.

All Out War: ISH vs MVH was a one-day only exhibition held on May 5th, 2018 at Death’s Vault Gallery’s physical location (315 Peck St., Building 5, Studio H, New Haven, CT 06512).

For more information on Justin Ishmael:
website | facebook | instagram | twitter

For more information on Mutant Vinyl Hardcore:
website | facebook | instagram | twitter

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