Hidden Fortress

While Akira Kurasawa‘s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress might seem an unlikely basis for a kaijū-inspired art toy exhibition, the Clutter Gallery‘s showcase of “strange beasts” does just that. Curated by Guumon (Brian Mahony), this group outing seems bound to its namesake by metallic hues and other treasure worthy tones being reoccuring, they themselves referencing the Akizuki clan gold that is central to the film. But, inspirations aside, the Hidden Fortress is primarily its own beast, filled with strangeness…

Guumon x Milkboy’s IT Bear for Hidden Fortress

Milkboy ToysIT Bear (2016) embodies the history of the brand that designed & produced it. The Japanese company Milk was primarily geared toward girls, their aesthetic being charmingly cute fashion, so they spun off Milkboy for a masculine audience, embracing a darker narrative. And when the brand designed their own figure, the facade was an adorable bear with something horrifying lurking underneath…

On initial viewing, this underlying menace is eluded to on the backside, frightening fingers prying the costume’s zipper apart and allowing a plethora of eldritch eyes to peer forth. Then, once the bear head is removed, a malevelent clown’s head is revealed. Inspired by “Pennywise” from the Stephen King novel It, it’s only appropriate that this monstrosity is named IT Bear.
Hand-painted with metallic accents by exhibition curator Guumon, which really highlight the original Kenth Toy Works sculpt, a total of five copies were made by him using the base color scheme and design.

Plaseebo’s Plaseebo Mummy & Sarcophagus for Hidden Fortress

Part of artist Bob Conge‘s 10th anniversary celebration for his Plaseebo Mummy form, which debuted in 2007, this unique iteration’s body decorated with black veins over an off-white base, the desiccated form takes on the appearance of being petrified rather than simply mummified. Mirrored by detailing on the accompanying sarcophagus, this work features an animalistic skull adorned with gold leaf and swirled red glass eyes, the earthy tones of the authentic aged bandages it’s wrapped in making the exposed elements all the more visually prevalent.
As is common for Conge’s modern work, this piece is meant to be viewed under various conditions, the rotocast base parts cast in glow-in-the-dark vinyl, lending an eerie illumination to the whole in the dark. And, when firmly tapped against a surface, the mummy itself emits a colorful array from within, cycling through a spectrum of hues before ending as abruptly as it began.

Punk Drunkers’ Aitsu figures for Hidden Fortress

The Japanese brand Punk Drunkers contributed five gold decorated versions of their mascot-turned-vinyl figure, Aitsu (2013), which translates as “Guy”. With Aitsu traditionally depicted in the corpsepaint style of black metal band members, and following the company’s motto — “Uncool is Cool” — Aitsu depicts an everyman for the goth or punk culture, a direct opposite to the business suited “salaryman” concept in Japan. A more realistically proportioned rendition of figure producer REAL × HEAD‘s muscular body structure, Aitsu really shines in this rendition, its traditional white skin with black facial details complimented perfectly by the golden painted areas.

TRU:TEK’s Akizuki’s Treasure for Hidden Fortress

Designed by TRU:TEK (Niall Anderson) and sculpted by fellow Brit UME Toys (Richard Page), who formed SubmissionToy together, the soft vinyl Sumoggubōru (2016) — or SmogBall — is an intricate beast. A mingling of Eastern and Western inspirations, this form takes the likeness of Bemon’s smog monster art toy Kougai Kaiju (2005) and reinterprets it in a Madballs-like shape. Featuring a 360° rotatable mouth, this spherical scare does a wonderful job of evolving the Kougai Kaiju‘s aesthetics: the six almond-shaped eyes given greater dynamic range by the off-center pupils, the nasal swirl granted slightly more definition and depth, and the mouth embued with grandeur by its neverending width.
The corporate corruption of man seems to be highlighted in this hand-painted, one-of-a-kind version by Anderson. With realistically colored smoke stacks upon its head and sewage drain spouts on its underside, the contrast of the crude oil black sludge decorating its gilded surface is obvious, bringing to mind the term “liquid gold“. Accented by the ruby red eye insets, this piece’s title — Akizuki’s Treasure — refers directly to the gold that is a reoccuring central element in Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.

More Pictures of Hidden Fortress

Having had its opening reception on Saturday, March 11th from 6-9pm, all works in this exhibition will remain on display until March 31st, 2017 at the gallery’s physical location (163 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508).

View the gallery’s dedicated page for the exhibition

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