Joining us today for another installment of our irregular Artist Choice Video Review series is our special guest Peter Kato, who selected the piece we will be examining: Andrea Kang‘s Boo Bear (2016). If you are unfamiliar with our Artist Choice Video Reviews, they allow whoever our special guest is to choose a work that they believe not only worthy of general discussion but that will also illuminate their own personal history and journey in one form or another.

A Brief History of Andrea Kang

While Kang’s personal artistic endeavors are more frequently associated with her illustrations and other 2D mediums, she has been involved in the designer toy movement since 2003, around which time she first met Kato. At the time, Kato was the manager and gallery curator for Toy Tokyo in New York City, and he recalls her being “a patron and budding artist” then. For her debut designer toy, she had hand-stitched her Rabbit Rabbit series of plush characters, which Kato recalls that she “actually brought in” to Toy Tokyo, the store being happy to “put them up for sale”. But, for full disclosure, this wasn’t the full extent of Kang and Kato’s association with one another.
In 2015, Kato modified his already well-established Bedtime Bunnie design (read more here) into the round-eared Bedtime Bear form, depicting an animal that Kang frequently has used in her art. A collaborative piece, these Bedtime Bear sculptures were hand-painted by Kang, the timeframe being roughly when she first began designing the Boo Bear piece. This is of note because two elements she used in this series were incorporated into the Boo Bear‘s design: the Xs under the eyes and the triangle-shaped pattern on the chest.

Our impressions of Andrea Kang’s Boo Bear

“She really took her time to figure out these almost, like, symbolic parts”, according to Kato, referring to Kang’s recurring visual language. “We start to recognize them now. Which, you know, I think is really important.” This is especially true as Kang’s style is generally minimal, with the few elements employed standing out all the more due to it. And Mighty Jaxx, who produced the Boo Bear vinyl sculpture, obviously took great care in capturing Kang’s minimal style as accurately as possible. Meaning that it’s the little touches, and how one can interpret them, that lends the piece its complexity.
We’re both immediately drawn to the triangle pattern on the chest. It immediately reminds me of the famed “How many triangles are there?” logic puzzles, though exhibited in a negative space rendition, granting a sense of infinite depth through a few simple rows of shapes. Taking it beyond what is shown on the surface, Kato interprets this pattern on “a more metaphysical level”, feeling that it represents “the core” or “soul” of the creature. Given the placement, over the dead middle of the body, where most people perceive the heart to be, I must concur that this is a very seemingly valid interpretation.
Lying underneath the Boo Bear‘s big, vibrant, expressive eyes are two Xs, which Kato believes represent dimples. “I think that’s cute”, he directly states. “And, you know, sometimes cute is the message”. For me, on the other hand, I can’t help but be reminded of how KAWS‘ frequently employs this same symbol for his character’s eyes. But where KAWS is using the Xs as a cartoonish statement of death, Kang’s juxtaposition of them against the Boo Bear‘s open eyes turns the shape into something akin to a life statement.
And then there’s the half-circle edging, which immediately reminds one of a comical ghost depiction, like those seen in the Pac-Man video game. While this ghost-like trimming had been previously employed in Kang’s works, like The Fortune-Teller (2015), what makes its use on the Boo Bear special is that is mirrored on the bottom of the figure’s body as well as on the hood, creating the illusion of a ghost wearing a ghost mask. And as any mask implies wanting to hide one’s identity, this element correlates to the backstory provided for the Boo Bear, which includes it disguising itself as it seeks to return lost wishes.
“A wandering ghost, Boo Bear is a creature of magic and a keeper of lost wishes”, the backstory states. “He disguises himself well and travels discreetly from one dimension to another in hopes of returning these wishes to their rightful owners. If you happen to be one of them, try and spot him when the clock strikes 11:11.” As an aside, if you are wondering, we suspect that the Boo Bear is slated to appear at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock due to an old saying: “11:11, make a wish“.

Other Appearances of the Boo Bear

In addition to the 200 piece vinyl edition of Boo Bear we’ve focused on in this review, there is the newly announced Silver version of the form that myplasticheart released at the 2017 New York Comic Con. But this rendition is actually not the first time Kang used the name, as it was also the title given to a sticker design she issued for Halloween in 2015. Though imbued with a slightly more ghostly form, it did employ the same triangle-shaped chest pattern as the sculptural version.
And, while neither of us can confirm it, it is possible that the Boo Bear concept was used in sculptural form apart from the Mighty Jaxx produced rendition. For one of her contributions to 2017’s Designer Toy Awards Dunny Mini Series, Kang created a character with quite a few similar elements. While it has the same Xs under the eyes and the same ghost-like trim on its mask, the triangle-shaped pattern on its chest was replaced with a black shirt, one adorned with a subtle, darker black patterning of triangles across it. Is this supposed to be Boo Bear? “I bet you…”, Kato pauses, “it could be!”

For more information on Andrea Kang:
website | facebook | instagram | twitter | tumblr | flickr

For more information on Peter Kato:
website | shop | facebook | instagram | twitter | pinterest

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