Sunday, July 23, 2006

Apologia all around/ComicCon 

Sorry for being slow to update our web site and blog about our upcoming BIG show with the Pasadena Museum of California Art. In fact I can't believe that I haven't even mentioned it before this post. Time flies when you're making shows...

We've been working on finding a venue for this exhibition since last summer, and it wasn't until February that we were tentatively calendared for Fall 2007 at PMCA. Then came the process of confirming the artists - another 2-3 months, since everyone who is in it is a hard-working artist with multiple commitments and projects. Getting them to think about something more than 12 months away is difficult, and determining what work they will have to include in an exhibit is even harder to do. This is what happens when you work with live artists!

For a capsule brief of the exhibit and a list of the artists, check out our site (it should be up soon, we promise!) I don't want to duplicate content.

We promised you transparency into museum making and culture, so here's another challenge that we've run into with creating this exhibition. When we first came up with the concept, there wasn't a blip on the radar screen about museums being interested in presenting exhibitions on the subject of vinyl art toys. Galleries were presenting shows of specific artists, but they were also primarily sales venues, not interpretive. Since LATDA doesn't have its own space and has to rely on partnering with others to present an exhibit, the timetable from concept to reality is considerably extended since we have to fit into someone else's calendar. Hence the 2007 opening date. Of course a year is a pretty short time to raise money and put together a good exhibition. Plus if you want to do a catalogue for the show, it is almost not enough time.

There are at least four new books being published this fall about vinyl art toy culture, with more coming out next year. Every publishing house is rushing out to capture this market. When we started researching this show, books on the subject were few and far between. Almost all of the information was anecdotal or on the web. Magazine articles were another source, if you could track down the magazines. But we hope to provide you with a LATDA view of the vinyl art movement that won't be found in these sources as well as a visual display that will be stimulating and thought-provoking like a good museum exhibition should be!

ComicCon 2006

Hard to believe that we were able to make it to this event for a second year in a row. Three of us went to meet with some of the artists in our upcoming exhibition and pre-promote it to an audience that would be unlikely to hear about it through regular museum channels. It was also a way to keep apprised of what's going on in this very large venue dedicated to popular culture in its many forms.

From the point of view of someone who feels too long in the tooth (and not in a Wookie way), this is not an ideal way to spend an afternoon. It is also not a place to have meetings. (The crowd seemed even bigger than last year, even though we went on Friday - considered to be a less crowded day. Next year we will go on Thursday.) Much of our time was spent jumping into the human streams flowing up and down the aisles and trying to disengage ourselves from time to time to look at peoples' booths. There didn't seem to be an area that was less crowded than another. It was the worst of Disneyland and the New York Gift Show. It would have been nice to have a catwalk above the convention where you could just sit and observe the participants. Or just a place to sit!

The part that I found the least interesting was probably the part that funds the bulk of the convention. The major movie studios and toy companies occupy center stage with the most elaborate booths, giveaways, and personality appearances. Marvel and DC Comics rightly deserve to have a large presence, but now they are so intertwined with the movie industry that they seem as one. Still, I have a hard time understanding why Hot Wheels and Lego were there, except for their various character licensing connections.

More interesting were the artist tables and the smaller boutique operations. The presence of some of these were puzzling too, but it was good to see them. The vinyl toy section was cleverly named "Toy Growers". Some artists we stopped and talked to were a painter named Eric Joyner and a puppetmaker named Angela Talbot.

The one must-have toy that we passed up was by an artist named Arnie Kim. He sculpted the most amazing articulated action figures of Bruce Lee. There were several of them from different movies, and I think the heads were interchangeable so you could change Bruce's expressions. The least expensive one was priced at $300.00, out of the LATDA collection budget. Sigh.

One aspect of the Con that never ceases to amaze me is the dress-up contingent. It was over 100 sweltering degrees in San Diego on Friday yet these devotees arrived in full Darth Vader et.al. attire (probably unequipped with those little fans that costumed figures at Disneyland have). Star Wars characters still outnumber everyone else, but we did have several Superman and Jack Sparrow sightings. And they come in all shapes and colors - another fascinating aspect of the Con. There was one Corpse Bride who showed quite a good imagination in costume design.

It was remarkable to hear the various languages being spoken all around (not to mention a smattering of Klingon) and to see the age range. There were also a lot more women in attendance than last year, although it is still a predominately male audience. Another observation - there were a lot less strippers trying to draw attention to various booths... maybe in an attempt to be more family friendly. And there were a lot of families in attendance. The continuing growth of this event says a lot about what culture is becoming in the world.

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