I have to confess I am easily drawn to works of art that resemble or depict toys and other childhood objects. At face value these works are easy, as all of us have some form of relationship or pre-existing association with the referenced nostalgic icons. In other words, the works naturally engage us and draw us in. However, these works, specifically those featured here, use the familiar imagery to interject layers of conceptual content, moving far beyond catchy into heavier implications, through expert usage of scale, quantity and context.
Context is key in these pieces. Maurizio Cattelan is a conceptual master of context, as demonstrated in his piece Daddy Daddy, which features a large drowned figure of Pinocchio floating face down in a pool inside the Guggenheim. The result is ironic, tragic and flawless. As well, the practice of significantly altering scale such as Jeff Koons‘ balloon animal sculptures, Urs Fischer‘s Untitled (Lamp/Bear) and Yoram Wolberger‘s life-size sculptures of toy and trophy figurines, allows the objects to become monolithic, dwarf us and alter our sense of reality.
Pablo Picasso once said, “every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” The owners of Oh’ My Neko take this quote to heart, honoring children as artistic masterminds behind some pretty unique dolls . . . and this goes for everyone, not just a select few, as this would negate the purpose: each young vision is valuable and translatable. For only 35€ each, your child’s hipster princess, lunatic lady monster, or clowny bug can spring to plushy life. Check out the gallery after the jump to see some more pretty adorable examples.
Photographer Gabriele Galinberti‘s series Toy Stories is a simple concept revealing a complex story. Over the course of 18 months the artist photographed children throughout the world with their most prized possessions. He would often play with the toys along with the children prior to arranging them for the photographs. It is surprising how much the toys can reveal about each child. Often children would prize toys that reflected the occupations of their parents – a large collection of cars for the son of a taxi driver or rakes and shovels for the daughter of a farmer. Also, Galinberti relates that poorer children’s play focused more on friends and activities rather than possessions. He says:
“The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them. In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”
Illustrator, graphic designer, and artist Jordan Speer created his own action figures (or at least illustrations of them.) Recreating the familiar packaging of childhood toys, Speer fills each one with a unique figurine. While nearly nostalgia inducing, each toy is also slightly sinister featuring warnings such as “slightly toxic”, “forbidden”, and “highly illegal”. Speer’s figures are enigmatic characters, unfamiliar and unwilling to reveal much beyond their name and accessories. Which would you collect?
Andrea Petrachi (aka Himatic) creates android-like sculptural figures out of miscellaneous found objects like toys and cameras. They remind me of those creepy doll things that the kid from Toy Story put together, with a little RAMELLZEE “Letter Racer” style thrown in. Petrachi describes his work as a “symbol of our out-of-control desire to buy things”. There definitely is a lot of “stuff” that we go through that just sits around forever after we buy it. In a way, this project gives forgotten items a second life. They’re also cool to look at. Andrea Petrachi is based in Milan. (via)
What sets Adam Roth apart from other illustrators is that you can actually go beyond the initial surface-level awesomeness of his pieces. For example, the burger warrior above is rad as hell, right? However, it’s not just that. It’s also got Adam’s pain, joy, and personal nature infused into it, making it more of a fine artwork then just a cartoon rendering of a cheeseburger gladiator. To most of us, action figures were toys we played with as children just for fun. Yet, to Adam Roth, they mean so much more, as you’ll find out in the interview below. They’re his muses. They’re his models. And they’re part of the reason Adam is one of the most unique artists I’ve come across in Los Angeles. So, in order to give you a full spectrum of his world, I’ve carefully curated the following images so you’re not just seeing Adam’s paintings, but you’re also getting a glimpse at the toys in his collection that inspire many of his works. Adam will be featured in the upcoming exhibit VOID: In the Nether Regions, which opens on April 12th  at Homeroom Gallery in Los Angeles.