“Huhhh, hurm. And now, sofubi seekers & kaiju keepers, if you will venture into Death’s Vault, I will show you wonders beyond your imagining,” cackles our host, The Death Head. “So, drop your jaws and open your wallets as we gaze upon the exhibition I call… Black Sabbath!”

Or, at least, that’s the monologue I imagined upon entering the working studio space of Rich Montanari Jr, which was housing its debut one-day gallery showcase. Mentally casting Montanari’s Death Head DX Sludge Demon (2011) into a role similar to The Vault-Keeper from The Vault of Horror, this imagining ended up being completely apropos as entering the room delighted me with an EC Comics-inspired logo painted upon the wall.

Black Sabbath — Hand-painted Pieces

Black Sabbath, the debut exhibition of Death’s Vault, was a solo showcase of Montanari’s Mutant Vinyl Hardcore works. Underneath the space’s massive logo, Montanari’s two-foot tall SludgeDemon DX Lifesize fiberglass figure elegantly divided the shelves of hand-painted pieces with its black form.
With its multitude of eyes capturing the gaze of all who pass, this killer bee-inspired “micro edition” of Montanari’s 6 Eyed Ghoul DX Sludge Demon (2012) was breathtaking. Light metallic sprays highlighting sections of the sculpt, the final black paint touches truly define the recessed elements of the piece.
Devoid of the various wiring elements that Montanari added to the previous painted version of his DC13 Astronaut – Hyper Viper (2015), this new iteration had accenting black and gold paints applied to the glow-in-the-dark vinyl base. Smartly applying the paint to allow for ample negative space on the form, that which will glow at night, the viewer’s eye is most certainly drawn to the tightly applied ionizing radiation hazard symbol on the abdomen.
With a colorful array of paints applied with rainbow precision, the result might appear chaotic. That is until you ponder the finished work. Using complimentary color schemes, Montanari uses colors directly opposite from one another on the color wheel, putting warm colors next to cool colors. The finished result are unique Darkside Hunter X (2015) versions that are truly pleasing to the eye.
Truly appropriate for an October show, with Halloween rapidly approaching, this Flying Freak DX Sludge Demon (2014) version not only entices with its surreal sculptural elements but also timely coloration. Displaying a singular copy from the edition facing backwards, it lends a frightening facial illusion to the arrangement.
The purplish-white tone primarily seen on this version of the Berserker (2013) gives the immediate impression of a dead body, an illusion that continues through the blood red sections and the single “dead” eye inset. Counterbalancing these aspects, the metallic paints shimmer under light, providing a sense of movement to the works.
The scatological sculpture Zug (2015), depicting a nude troll and his pile of fecal matter, is almost minimal in its paint application. Letting the rough-hewn form define itself by-and-large, Montanari focused his painting attention on the face, imbuing a truly lifelike visage to the piece.
While the neon pink immediately draws the attention, this small edition of Feral Boy (2015) pieces have a Frankensteinian feel, even though green is sparsely applied. Accenting their toothy grin mouths, the bulging doll eye insets perfectly complete this creepy version.
A perfect compliment to this exhibition’s Berkserker edition, these Leviathan (2015) pieces radiate a sense of decay and bloated death. While the metallic paints on the Berkserker gave a glimmer of liveliness, here they are restricted to the armored areas, emphasizing a feel of coldness. But those bright red eyes defy this feel, making me immediately think of that cinematic moment when a nightmare creature hidden in the dark gazes upon you.
The first painted edition of Montanari’s Sludge Fighter (2015) collaboration with REAL × HEAD, this was definitely the highlight of the exhibit for me. While the sculptural work creating the bulbous arm accessory was impressive, the detailing instilled in those slit eyes was truly breathtaking.

Black Sabbath — Unpainted Pieces

In addition to the hand-painted works listed above, Montanari had a variety of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore pieces in exclusive unpainted editions, allowing the coloration choices of the vinyl itself draw forth the sculptural artistry. Among those pieces available in unpainted forms were green Zug trolls, a couple of versions of both the gremlin Bernie (2015) and the monstrous Sludge Demon (2010), red colored Berserker pieces, and Sam Heinous DX Sludge Demon (2012) in alternating mixed colored parts.

Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s Production Sample Display

Accompanying the Black Sabbath exhibition were three shelves of various Mutant Vinyl Hardcore vinyl sculptures. Mainly displaying unpainted works, highlighting the variety of vinyl colors employed over the years, there were some hand-painted pieces included as well.

Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s Master Sculpture Display

And, finally, there was a truly delightful peek behind the curtain. Montanari included a glass case filled with his Mutant Vinyl Hardcore sculptures, the original handmade works that the molds for the vinyl editions were made from.

Black Sabbath was a one-day only exhibition held on October 9th, 2016 at Death’s Vault’s physical location (315 Peck St., Building 5, Studio H, New Haven, CT 06512).

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