(In)action Figures 2017

When I coined the term “(in)action figure” during my tenure as the Clutter Gallery‘s curator, I had no clue that my turn of phrase would become an institution. For its fifth annual exhibition, the (In)action Figures 2017 showcase remained a celebration of popular culture and nostalgia, specifically focused on those art toy pieces whose packaging and appearance emulates the action figures of the ’70s and ’80s. And while the gallery’s walls seemed overtaxed by the number of works displayed, those of particularly noteworthy humor and/or creativity stood out amongst the hordes.

The Window Display for (In)action Figures 5

The colorful playset assemblages from DLL Customs (Derrick “LOG-LOG” Lauglaug) immediately catch the eye, their pastel hues reminiscent of stained glass. Named after the Wright brothers‘ testing ground for their 1903 Flyer, these The Road To Kitty Hawk, Part 1-3 works recall man’s desire to fly, even in a galaxy far, far away… Featuring humanoids experimenting with various wing structures, it is a shame that Part 4 in the series — which displays successful flight — couldn’t be situated closer to these other components.
But the placement of the two jumbo-sized pieces by Panda Propaganda Toys (Bacee “Blackat” Bedard) fills the shelf nicely next to DLL Customs’ works. While Panda Propaganda has been exploring his own two-headed Masters of the Universe-style figures since 2015, it has only been in the last few months that he’s evolved the 5″ tall form into these massive renditions standing 12″ in height. The Jumbo Skele-Man pairing He-Man and his nemesis, Skeletor, on one body evokes an obvious but eternal humor, but I find the slightly more sly wit of the commander and subordinate sharing one form on Jumbo Darth-Trooper Vader-Man to be a bit more memorable.
Fleshing out the window display are three parody cup toppers from Dave Bondi. Having debuted these designs late last year, Bondi’s MeSoOffensive series pushes three of the most racist characters from the Star Wars universe to beyond offensive. Jar Jar Binks, the ever-annoying Gungan, fully embraces his Rastafarian roots with a tam on his head and blunt in his hand. Nute Gunray of the Neimoidians has a Mao Zedong-inspired hairline and attire. And Toydarian merchant Watto gets an intentionally ambiguous cap and beard, denoting either a Jewish or Muslim upbringing. Inspired by the actual Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace cup toppers which were buyable from Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell in 1999, these are housed on actual McDonald’s drinking cups from 1991.

Featured Works from the Main Wall at (In)action Figures 5

Leading into a variety of figures on backing cards, it’s hard not to spot the Darth Knuckleduster piece by Killer Bootlegs (Peter Goral). An evolution of Goral’s Count Draco Knuckleduster (2014) concept, it comes in an acrylic case à la an Action Figure Authority (AFA) “Loose” graded figure. Making this more of a meta work of art, the accompanying sticker is issued by the BFA, perhaps being the Bootleg Figure Authority, and includes all the exhibition information as well as a serial number derived from Goral’s own birthday.
One of my favorite carded figures was actually a piece the debuted last year, The Fog by Death by Toys (Dan Polydoris). Made in reference to the John Carpenter film of the same name, this professional looking backer has a simple pulled apart cotton ball contained within its plastic bubble. Supposedly representing a “100% movie-accurate” depiction of “Some Fog”, the best part is the contention that it is “fully poseable”.
Of course, an (In)action Figures exhibition wouldn’t be complete without at least one contribution from The Sucklord (Morgan Phillips), with The Pussy Grabs Back edition being especially impactful. A particularly timely jest on current U.S. President Donald Trump‘s “Grab ’em by the pussy” comment, this piece extols the strength of women through picturing Malala Yousafzai, Frida Kahlo, Princess Leia, Joan Rivers, Miss Piggy, Mulan, and Pam Grier. And while the actual figure is topped with the My Little Pony inspired head from Sucklord’s Star Bronies (2011), I find it much more interesting that he used a body reminiscent of his Another Bitch You Didn’t Get To Fuck (2005) piece.
Packing a tiny punch, it was a pleasure to notice keshi-style mini-figure works of Nama Niku (Tyler Larkins). Especially of note was the return of his Niku Wrestling Alliance Chibi Ring (2016), a roughly 1″ tall piece done in the style of Kinnikuman and M.U.S.C.L.E. With a wrestling ring formation atop the body, there are rubber band ropes forming the railings and the piece comes with a championship belt that can be placed around its waist.

Featured Works from the Back Wall at (In)action Figures 5

While the paint application on these by JaibanToys (Iban Torres) would’ve benefited from some more refinement, strength of concept carries these pieces into notability. As the Jedi youngling begin their initial lessons on Coruscant at an early age, it only makes sense that the Jedi High Council would provide some form of entertainment for the youths… Enter these Jedi Kiddie Ride pieces! Depicting a boxy, power droid-esqe coin-operated ride, these are decorated with the Jedi Order logo and seem to invite the younglings to pop coin after coin in, imagining themselves flying through space.
Continuing the Star Wars theme, Lisa Rae Hansen contribute four uniquely colored Heavy Metal Wookie pieces to the exhibition. Having originally debuted the design in 2013 when she modified an original, vintage, Kenner released Chewbacca figure. Throwing the infamous sign of the horns with his hand, this piece is rather Kiss-centric with the facial decoration and long tongue. Releasing the following year in a resin cast version, Hansen hand-painted each one and the removeable guitar accessories were held in place by magnet. Using the same base as those 2014 editons, these green, yellow, purple, and orange versions used complimentary colors to not only appear exquisite when displayed together as well as individually.
Shifting musical gears, Special Ed Toys introduces us to Starboy with this Prototype Edition piece. As the backing card art by MOC Toys clearly illustrates, this is a parody of The Weeknd‘s Starboy, mimicking the album’s cover design. Depicting Kylo Ren in the role, the figure’s lightsaber accessory is held backwards to emphasize the cross-like appearance, mirroring the one around his neck just like the PBR&B musician wears. Containted within a Protech hard case, this one-of-a-kind prototype heralds a forthcoming editioned release.

Featured Works from the Pedestals at (In)action Figures 5

Instead of transforming nostalgia into some form of commentary, Manny X Romero of Iconoclast Toys opted to create something directly from a classic property that he wish had existed. Aptly titled End Boss, this robot suited depiction of Mr. Burns was the final obstacle for players to overcome in The Simpsons arcade game. Granting more of gritty realism to the mechanical parts, the colorfully yellow head of the cartoon character immediately draws the gaze on this otherwise darker toned work. Expertly crafted, the inclusion of a nuclear waste barrel and atom bomb are truly appropriate props for this villainous boss.
Amongst his impressively diverse array of immaculate works in this exhibition, the Toy Totem from RYCA (Ryan Callanan) stands tall as the most eye-catching. Literally towering over all nearby pieces, this sculpture is a tribute to the good and bad aspects of childhood, itself emblazoned with heroic characters on one side and their villainous counterparts on the other. Topped by Optimus Prime and Megatron from The Transformers, granting them the appearance of greater importance, all the other noteworthies are just as famous: Yoda and Darth Vader from Star Wars, He-Man and Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, and one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set against Shredder. Cast in a polished metal, the black rub finishing grants an aged appearance to the whole, like something that was made when these characters were in their prime.
Placing an Econoline body atop AT-AT legs, the VAN-AT by 2bitHACK (Gary Buder) debuted in 2013. Cast in resin at that time, this Space Artifact is a one-of-a-kind version cast in pewter. Dinged and damaged looking, like a true piece of salvaged space wreckage, this gorgeous addition to Bruder’s Empire on a Budget series hopefully hints towards what the future holds…

More Pictures of (In)action Figures 5

Having had its opening reception on Saturday, February 11th from 6-9pm, all works in this exhibition will remain on display until March 3rd, 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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