Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s Black Sabbath 3

No, it wasn’t a surprise reunion of the seminal metal band nor a screening of the film which they appropriated their name from. Rather it was the third solo exhibition of Rich Montanari Jr’s Mutant Vinyl Hardcore alias at his own Death’s Vault Gallery, and a throng of voracious art toy connoisseurs had descended upon Connecticutt for Black Sabbath 3. A one-day only event like its predecessors (read more here and here), those waiting outside the doors knew it would be only a matter of hours before all of the over one-hundred pieces offered would be claimed by themselves or their fellow collectors. But beyond the solicited works, Montanari arranged a special treat to visually greet those entering the gallery’s hallowed space…

Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s New DX Sludge Demon Sculptures

Since its debut in 2011, the desiccated humanoid form of the DX Sludge Demon has been resurrected repeatedly, Montanari — as well as some of his trusted contemporaries — having conceived a variety of alternative heads to augment the charred body over the years. And with the last “new” DX Sludge Demon head being initially issued in 2015, Montanari surely knew he could take the breaths away from several attendees by displaying two new toppers for his iconic creation. Presented in their test shot state, indicating early vinyl castings from the mold used by the artist to ensure quality, the King Skull King is a perfect melding of horror and sci-fi aesthetics, a skeletal and cycloptic beast with a hood of spikes emanating from the nape its neck, while the Krampus embodies supernatural tradition evolved, a hyper-embellished rendition of the Christmastime creature from Central European folklore.

With most attendees eagerly shifting their gaze towards the exhibition proper, it is possible that some diminutive additions to Montanari’s permanent display were overlooked. Grasped within the clutches of several characters were 2⅓-inch tall renditions of the artist’s normally 13-inch tall Ollie design, a reinterpretation of the one-eyed, mace-fisted monstrosity for the 16th series of Medicom Toy‘s Vinyl Artist Gacha (or VAG). Having just debuted a month before in five factory-painted color schemes, Montanari’s playful arrangement of their exquisitely crafted forms became a succulent treat before consuming the exhibition’s meaty main course.

Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s Black Sabbath 3 Exhibition

Sometimes referred to as the villainous counterpart for the massive Ollie form, the two-headed beast known as Krawluss beautifully blends hordes of disparate elements into one cohesive shape. Representing a fifty-fifty split of design responsibilities between Skinner and Montanari, the latter hand-painted this roughly 14-inch tall creature’s limited edition manifestation that adorns the gallery’s wall. Wisely allowing the yellow vinyl of the form to breathe and take occasional dominance, the artist applied saturated spots of metallic colors sprayed upon the beast, drawing forth potentially hidden sculptural details without becoming overbearing. And, almost as a form of comparison, completely unpainted versions of this coloration were offered as McKrawluss pieces, each accompanied by drink cups that parody a certain popular fast food institution.

Midnight blue, fiery red, and spectrally silver tones spread over Montanari’s Goji Version pieces, presumably named after Godzilla‘s Japanese name, Gojira, due to these colorations being familiarly used on its toy renditions. Imbued upon renditions of the artist’s own two-faced Plague Face Troll and imp-like Bernie, there’s a memorable and palpable sense of evil to these, their red eyes locking your attention. But no less impressive is the artist’s chubby-faced Sludge Demon in its DV Version, the compacted sludge of maleficent energy oozing with red and white detailing over its black base, perfectly reflecting the colors dominant in the Death’s Vault Gallery itself. And amidst this selection of ultra-limited, hand-painted editions, Montanari offers a sampling of his recent Gacha Ollie collaboration with Medicom, each of these tiny forms trapped in specially designed packaging by the artist.
Created in reverence of and reference to Bemon‘s Kougai Kaiju form, a personal favorite of Montanari, the Black Sabbath 3 exhibition became the first official vinyl offering of the artist’s new MVH Kougai Kaiju Series. Aptly titled Kougai no Obitsu herein, these represent four test shot copies that Montanari received from the Obitsu factory in Japan, each meticulously hand-painted by him. With two pieces representative of the traditional wide-eyed, almost whimsical form of this creation, the remaining works feature an alternate head that embodies this pollution monsters core in true Mutant Vinyl Hardcore style, depicting a grotesque skull complete with horn- and crossbones-like growths. Decorated to highlight various sculptural details, including the translucent flames, these wonderful additions to Montanari’s oeuvre bookend a one-of-a-kind Krawluss rendition, a complexly layered version that leaves rare space upon it untouched by the artist’s hand.
Montanari’s oceanic monstrosity Toxigon has terrorized exhibitions and collections since its introduction in 2014, the scale-pocked and heavily textured form accompanied by its zoomorphic morning star weapon Mackerel Mouth. And for Black Sabbath 3, Montanari chose to explore Toxigon afresh, an assortment of one-off renditions imbuing the form with a wide range of atmospheres. Sandwiched between a bloodied, corpse-like version and a glisteningly metallic interpretation, Montanari delves into the Death’s Vault associated colors of black, white, and red, a trio of beasts allowing each hue to take prominence.
Though Montanari’s painterly talents are mainly associated with his flowing spray applications, his pristine brushwork on elements like eyes, teeth, and finer details take center stage for his variety of DX Sludge Demon selections. From the two-toned stitches stretching across the bat-winged Flying Freak head to the subtle accents upon the needle-like teeth of the Sludge Head, Montanari does not shy away from ensuring that each aspect has life breathed into it. And while it is always a pleasure to see the horned Death Head rendition, the true stars in this array are the specially assembled sculptural forms utilizing the artist’s four-eyed Krawluss head as well as his gladiatorial Berserker design.
Completing the Black Sabbath 3 exhibition are the second half of Montanari’s ten Toxigon variations, each one-of-a-kind work hand-painted in complementary color compositions. A true testiment to the diversity of the form, one does not feel encumbered by the repetition but rather freed to focus on the paintwork. And while Montanari’s creations are sculptural testiments of his aesthetic, it is through his carefully planned decorations and details that his Mutant Vinyl Hardcore voice truly manifests.
Black Sabbath 3 was a one-day only exhibition held on October 6th, 2018 at Death’s Vault Gallery’s physical location (315 Peck St., Building 5, Studio H, New Haven, CT 06512).

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