Thursday, December 09, 2010

TINY TOO Art Show Announcement / Wallet-Size Kaiju

The TINY TOO SHOW exhibition at Gallery Meltdown showcases eensey-scale work (three inches or smaller) from some thirty-plus artists. Yours truly will also be in the show, and as per usual, the peripheral reason to mention this here is that my pieces are movie-culture-related. As the show is a one-night-only, cash-and-carry affair, the bulk of the art is available for perusal and purchase in the preview catalogue <— linked right here. Among these little gems is something for every budget, and as they take up less wall space than a commemorative $2 bill, make excellent holiday gifts. Direct purchase inquiries to Gallery Meltdown staff, at the links above/below, in person or by phone.

The TINY TOO SHOW goes up on December 11, 2010 from 6 P.M. to 9 P.M., in the gallery space of Meltdown Comics, 7522 W. Sunset Blvd., 90046. Those peculiar persons for whom Wednesday is not synonymous with "New Comics Day" often ask "Where on Sunset is that? I've never seen that," and the answer is "West Hollywood, somewhere between the In-N-Out and that Griddle Cafe place that cooks Oreos into pancakes."

So below are photographs of my tiny paintings, which depict beloved monstrous creatures from Japanese tokusatsu media. That is, they're all guys in rubber kaiju suits. Each of these oh-so-ironically mini-kaiju are acrylic on 2"x2" MDF. As disclaimer, in person these are considerably more lustrous, not so washed out, and appear less "blotchy" and more "pointillist," as digital scanner or camera simply cannot convey the miniature-ness on hand. Anyway, do consider that you're seeing these rascals at nearly twice their actual size, which completely undoes any in-person effects, but is fun anyway. Away, then!

Anguirus — 1968
Front of the pack, but the most modern design of the bunch, Godzilla's first giant monster foe appears in approximation of his Destroy All Monsters! design. Anguirus' 1968 incarnation was selected over his First Appearance look in Godzilla Raids Again (née Gigantis, the Fire Monster, 1955) because 1) I love Destroy All Monsters!, 2) the film is in color, which avoids having to paint in monochrome or inventing a color scheme for the beast (the original suit is rumored to have been painted in hues of red and blue!), and 3) later appearances do not try to mask that the design forces the suit performer to crawl around on hands and knees. There is, in my opinion, something charming and a little magical about bent-knee kaiju, a necessary acquiescence to the anatomical reality of the actor, a silent signifier of the Real World that could break the illusion but that is, instead, gradually absorbed as a genre convention. Blessed are the knee-crawlers.

Kanegon — 1966
The most esoteric of this cluster is Kanegon, who appeared in the Ultra Q episode "Kanegon's Cocoon". Despite having featured in one TV show more than forty years ago, the coin-purse-headed, non-giant kaiju is a readily recognizable icon in his homeland, and is steadily reproduced in vinyl and resin of all size and color. The excellent Ultra Q has sadly never been exported to America, but is available on nice, ultra-pricey Japanese DVD from the usual sources for such things. Naturally it's never been dubbed or subtitled, but you don't entirely need a translation, particularly for this kid-logic fable about the dangers of money lust. Briefly, greedy boy Kaneo finds a pod full of coins, is sucked inside, and wakes up as a Kanegon, which must eat cold hard cash to survive. With some familial resemblance to "The Metamorphosis" and Carl Barks comics, the episode finally goes full-on weirdo in the dénouement, where Kanegon somehow blasts off into space, Kaneo parachutes back to earth, and finds that his parents have turned to Kanegons, too. Anyway, the episode contains several indelible images, including the desperate creature crouched curbside before a dropped safe box and shoveling coins into his maw, as well as one of the more hair-raising stunts I've ever seen, when the suited Kanegon actor falls from a moving bulldozer and into the path of the blade. But vague morals about greed and alien ass-rockets aside, I suspect the episode endures because of a single lyrical shot of the lonesome Kanegon sitting on a quarry hillside at sunset, gazing into the distance.

As re: the painting, I cop to having backed off on the backlighting and dusky shadows of this scene, in exchange for a clearer look at this classic monster suit. Relatively trustworthy color documentation exists, but I chose to depict the scene in Ultra Q-accurate black and white.

Mothra — 1964
Mothra comes at the suggestion of the lady of the house. Good thinking, since girls like Mothra, and a request I'm glad to fulfill because she lets me keep dozens of vinyl monsters in the living room. Besides a hindwing reduction and proboscis redesign after her 1961 debut, I don't believe that Shōwa Mothra underwent drastic changes in look. Like everyone else, I try to keep up on these things, but claim no expertise.

The scene in the little picture above comes from her '64 appearance in Mothra vs. Godzilla (Godzilla vs. the Thing, for the elderly), as the aging Mothra takes refuge in her sacred cave on Infant Island and rests up for one final, self-sacrificing battle. Mothra has, the Infant Islanders say, chosen to defend Japan against Godzilla, though her life cycle is ending and human greed has endangered her massive, beached egg. There is a quiet majesty to this scene that seems intrinsically Japanese — being, as it is, about natural cycles and personal sacrifice for the good of society. Overhead light streams into the dark cave and rims the beast's gently flapping wings, a melancholy wash of mono no aware clarity and beauty all the more unexpected for being in a tale of giant monsters amok.

This is among the most moving and delicate scenes in a Godzilla picture — if not top of the list — and one of the many elements that recommends Mothra vs. Godzilla as a particularly fine installment.

I've cheated the angle of Mothra's wings, and fudged the interior of the cave, for more dramatic (and square) staging. Do forgive me. And finally, inevitably...

Godzilla — 1964
Speaking of Mothra vs. Godzilla and its excellent qualities, the street-level story is funny and compelling. Theme park developers claim ownership of Mothra's egg, the working class fishermen who discovered it demand compensation, career politicians try to put positive spin on disasters, and newspapermen have honest-to-God ideological discussions about the degree to which journalists should shape public opinion. That's just a random sample of this idea-rich masterpiece, and Mothra vs. Godzilla is exactly the counterattack to keep in your arsenal when some chucklehead tells you that a Giant Fighting Creatures movie mustn't/needn't/can't/shouldn't aspire to be anything but stupid, loud, cinematically incompetent, etc. You will need this weaponry in the near future, likely in battle with the Transformers franchise.

Back to the point, MvG also sports one of the very best Godzilla suits, affectionately shorthanded by enthusiasts as Mosugoji, and pretty much the hands-down fan favorite Shōwa suit. Personally, I can't help but feel the most affection for the Soshingeki-Goji of Destroy All Monsters! through Godzilla vs. Gigan/ on Monster Island, and there's something abominably creepy about the King Kong vs. Godzilla suit, but in the end, I cave to popular opinion on this one.

As for the King of Monsters half of the equation, Godzilla is depicted as an irredeemable asshole in the film, is given one of the all-time, any-movie greatest entrance scenes, a delightfully ignoble comeuppance at the end, and...

In the above scene, Godzilla slips and smashes into Nagoya Castle, then takes out his rage on the landmark: the coolest Godzilla design lays into one of the Tsuburaya Dept.'s most spectacular miniatures. Ironically/hilariously, restoration of the historic building had just been completed five years prior. So, obviously, that's a good, excruciatingly laborious thing to commemorate in a two inch painting. I can only add that I was a little bummed that to fit both the beautiful creature and castle the scale is such that one can't quite make out the golden dolphins atop the building.

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Finally, for those who read this far and actually, y'know, live in Los Angeles... In grand Bandai collecting tradition, there will be one additional Show Exclusive painting. That is, not available via Internet or phone order, and not available after the show, but available only on December 11 at Gallery Meltdown!

P.S., the painting will be of Guiron from Gamera vs. Guiron. Because his head is a knife.

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