Seeking to put some “fun” back into his fine art, Aaron Moreno skewed away from his established career as a painter and muralist in 2013, cementing himself in a new direction by creating handmade “action figure” tributes to the cult films that he loved. Yes, basing works on films like Night of the Creeps and New Jack City could be viewed as opportunistic fan servicing, but this path was actually an honest manifestation of what would become the artist’s Retroband alias’ slogan: “Making toys I wish I had growing up.” A guiding philosophy throughout Moreno’s art toy career, it seems appropriate that his first solo gallery exhibition — I can’t stop the Monster I created — embodied this belief through several works, the artist reimagining his signature MEATS design in referential likeness to one of his favorite vintage toys: the so-called Ma-Ba Zombies series.

What are Ma-Ba Zombies?

Almost a decade after they introduced Slime in the winter of 1976, Mattel began issuing the gross Mad Scientist series of playsets, each kit merging the grotesquely monstrous with a chemistry set’s sensibilities. Transitioned into the Japanese market through the brand’s relationship with Bandai from 1986 to 1991, these toys immediately spawned a line unique to that Asiatic country: ゾンビーズ (Zonbīzu), which translates as “Zombies.” Known to English-speaking fans as Ma-Ba Zombies, in reference to their Mattel-Bandai branding, this was a series of roughly 2-inch tall figures depicting the upper torso of monsters. With their hollow bodies able to be filled-up with Slime, a squeeze would cause the viscous goo to ooze forth, accompanying accessories — like orangish eyes — spewing outward in the action’s wake. In fact, the purple-skinned and mop hair-headed Ma-Ba Zombies figure with the eye-popping effect — グリアン, or Gurian — was the direct inspiration behind the MA-BA MEATS SERIES 2.0 edition that Moreno offered as part of I can’t stop the Monster I created.

Retroband’s I can’t stop the Monster I created solo exhibition

Since introducing his horror-laden, human-like slasher MEATS in late 2015, Moreno has repeatedly proven that he can radically reinterpret his original design into manifestations of his passions. And for his first solo gallery showcase, I can’t stop the Monster I created, Moreno exhibits this ability through more than his previously mentioned Ma-Ba Zombies-inspired edition. From the sinister creepiness of his ax-wielding GUILLOTINE MEATS, each adorned in their own custom-tailored robe, to the body horror INFECTED MEATS embodiments, this trio imbued with a taste of the monstrous courtesy of Moreno’s TOMB form’s appendages, the artist rounds out his handmade offerings with a wholly new rendition of MEATS concept. While he’s sculpturally explored the Ma-Ba Zombies aesthetic since October 2017 as part of the Deadly Delivery collective, Moreno uses this exhibit to debut a rendition of his signature creation in this style, offering butcher-styled MA-BA MEATS pieces with their own dioramic packaging.

Filling the gallery space with an unprecedented number of unpainted MEATS pieces, their “raw” state the perfect visual palate cleansers to compare and contrast the other works with, this one-night-only gallery exhibit also featured the debut of CoART’s newest venture: a publishing company dedicated to art books about art toys, whose first outing is the MEATS by Retroband monograph. More than a testament to Moreno’s creativity and artistic capability, this book — and the exhibit — reveal the true success that Moreno’s Retroband endeavor has been: for, without question, he has reclaimed the “fun” in his fine art.
Retroband’s I can’t stop the Monster I created solo exhibition at the Bottleneck Gallery was a held on Saturday, September 21st, 2019 from 6-9 pm, with all works in this one-day showcase displayed at the gallery’s physical location (60 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11249).

Click here to acquire the MEATS by Retroband art book from CoART Publications.

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