Though Philadelphians like Darryl “CORNBREAD” McCray and Earl “COOL EARL” Hubbard were aerosol writing practitioners in the early ’60s, it wasn’t until this street art trend spread to New York City that it gained style. From the interconnected lettering of Thomas “LEE 163d!” Lee to Michael “TRACY 168” Tracy‘s wildstyle, arguably the most influential of these early ’70s pioneers that built the foundation of the movement’s modern aesthetic was Lonny “PHASE 2” Wood. Alternatively known as “PHASE TOO” and “P.H.A.S.E.2”, this Bronx native conceived the puffed-out, marshmallow-like writing style known as “bubble letters” or “softies” in late 1972. Embellishing upon his creation, Wood soon explored dozens of variations that introduced arrows, loops, speed-streaks, and stars to the nascent art form.
Delving deeper into complex forms, Wood’s PHASE 2 alias began reconfiguring letters into biomechanical monstrosities, the alphabet’s hard lines becoming a substructure from which drills, horns, and spikes emerge. Referred to as “hieroglyphical calligraphic abstraction” pieces by John Maizels, this direction resulted in complete anthropomorphization with the artist’s tribal warrior shapes, which have stood guard at Wynwood Doors since 2010’s Universe installation, and Wood’s recent vinyl sculptures produced by Unbox Industries, the Abomination Deity Guardians.

PHASE 2’s Abomination Deity Guardians

Hailing from “the alter universe of H’Trea,” according to their solicitation text, the Abomination Deity Guardians are the “mecha[-]organic hybrid offspring of Prime Godians and Ordians,” their purpose being “to protect” as well as “provide safe haven and sanctuary to the hoards of ill-fated[,] deformed[,] and misshapen entities” — or “Abomination Deities” — that are “feared and hunted by the common inhabitants of their world.” Positing a classic dichotomy, the Abomination Deity Guardians assume a presumably angelic role against demonic “counterparts” who, as the descriptive wording elaborates, are “evil entities” that “chose to create chaos and mayhem,” thus “casting a shadow of contempt” upon them all.

Visually reminiscent of Popy Toy‘s Jumbo Machinder series from the ’70s, the Abomination Deity Guardian forms are humanoids encased in armor, their blocky bodies possessing a grandeur that is simultaneously unwieldy and graceful. Designed and sculpted by Wood, his PHASE 2 aesthetic erupts from the multi-horned Hidra‘s tapered cranium and the worm-haired Ona‘s billowing head, the organic touches coexisting fluidly with each form’s architectural sense of mass. Akin to being “living” machines, the Abomination Deity Guardians are conglomerates of ornamentation and symbolism, their aspects implying functionality while embodying their creator’s love of techno-glyphic detailing.
Nowhere is Wood’s passion for the representative more evidenced than in his one-of-a-kind Abomination Deity Guardian creations, several of which were displayed at Toy Tokyo‘s Five Points Festival booth in 2018 to accompany the form’s debut. Spliced together into unique amalgamations, the alterations to these pieces invoke various belief systems: elongated limbs reminiscent of Japanese folklore, multi-armed aspects similar to Hinduism‘s divinities, explicit imagery borrowed from Buddhism and Christianity, and even crystals with their New Age undertones. Remaining beholden to no earthly religion, the use of iconography in these works is no different than what the artist previously did with words: challenging the viewer’s understanding of them by reconfiguring these into something beautiful but monstrous.
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