Toys by Design: Mike Leavitt

Written on by jeremy

Design Bureau magazine issue 19: Toys by Design Mike Leavitt

The latest issue of fantastic design magazine Design Bureau is on news stands now! For this Toys by Design column, I chatted up my pal, art instigator Mike Leavitt. In addition to showcasing the Art Army Royalty, Mike talks about inspiration, “adult educational toys” and his Norwegian DNA.

Design Bureau magazine issue 19: Toys by Design Mike Leavitt

On a personal and print-nerd level, I’m stoked that Mike’s Art Army figures appear on 3 pages of the magazine. The May/June 2013 issue of Design Bureau also means 5 years have passed since I first interviewed Leavitt for ToyCyte! (You can re-read that interview here.) There’s a lot more to this TbD column on Mike Leavitt, and one of these days, I’ll get around to posting the whole chat. In the meantime, grab a copy of DB in stores or subscribe here.

Design Bureau magazine issue 19: Toys by Design Mike Leavitt

And keep your eyes on Leavitt. He’ll be closing the year with a follow-up to his successful solo show at Jonathan LeVine gallery, and to quote Mike: “The Art Army will look like a kids’ game after we’re done with this.” He’s been working in secret on the new body of work all year long: “[It's] twice as much [time] as I’ve ever spent on any show or project ever before. If there becomes such a thing as too much hype for this show, it will live up to it.” Whoa! P.S. If you dig the poster underneath the magazine above, it’s from an edition of 25 Art Army posters. That one’s mine, but a few are still available directly from Leavitt here.

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Arrested Development Season 4 is Here!

Written on by jeremy

Arrested Development Season 4

Arrested Development is back! Arrested Development Season 4 has 15 episodes that are currently available to stream on Netflix. I subscribed to Netflix specifically for this, and since the first month is free, it’s possible to gorge on Arrested Development and then quit the service without having paid a dime. (I think I’m going to stick around, though.) As a note to my readers in countries with pesky regional barriers, I’ve heard the free browser add-on Media Hint can provide a simple and elegant point of entry…

Season 4, Episode 1: "Well, that's not a great sign."

Season 4, Episode 1: "Well, that's not a great sign."

I’m trying to be disciplined and not watch the entire season in one big Bluthy binge, so I cut myself off at the end of episode 3. Probably due to the limitations of working with a busy ensemble cast, each episode in Season 4 follows a single character’s story arc. I have to admit I’m not loving this strategy, but Arrested Development is absolutely still one of the funniest programs on TV (or Netflix, in this case). The Lindsay Bluth-Fünke (but neither, really) story arc in episode 3 felt like the show was hitting its stride. (Definitely props to Tobias!)

Inspired casting! Seth Rogan and Kristin Wiig as the young George and Lucille Bluth.

Inspired casting! Seth Rogan and Kristin Wiig as the young George and Lucille Bluth.

I’m looking forward to seeing who else turns up in Season 4. SNL’s Kristin Wiig is perfect as a young Lucille Bluth. And John Slattery rules at every character he plays. I think I’m finally going to print and cut out these Arrested Development paper dolls by Kyle Hilton.

"This works, right?" "Never better."

"This works, right?" "Never better."

If you’re off work for Memorial Day today OR if you’re at work and bored (and/or bitter), click here for an epic interactive infographic of all the recurring jokes on Arrested Development!

Recurring Developments

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Mark Ryden’s YHWH Custom Toy Show at Toy Art Gallery

Written on by jeremy
Mark Ryden's YHWH custom toy show at Toy Art Gallery

YHWH toys by Francesco de Molfetta, Emilio Garcia, Marion Peck, KMDNZ, PlaSeeBo and Liz McGrath

The Mark Ryden-blessed YHWH Group Custom Toy Show stands apart in a sea of similarly intended toy art shows because of a) its thoughtfully curated artist roster and b) its somewhat conceptual, somewhat controversial nature. The former is pretty obvious: these aren’t the usual toy customizer suspects, but rather (for the most part) a pool of Ryden’s peers. When was the last time you saw the likes of Marion Peck or Liz McGrath or Anthony Ausgang customizing vinyl toys? Mark Ryden’s brother, the amazing KRK Ryden, created the piece below. It’s called “Yeah, Why” and it’s available for adoption here.

Mark Ryden's YHWH customized by brother KRK Ryden

Mark Ryden's YHWH customized by KRK Ryden

Now, about the concept and the controversy. Before there was a pink vinyl YHWH toy (and then five subsequent colorways), there was a sculpture by Dave Pressler. Of course before THAT, there was an original oil painting by Mark Ryden. The timeline went something like this: oil painting (2000), toy creation (2006), and toy release (2009). The O.G. pink YHWH colorway was made in an edition of 2000 pieces and came in a beautiful box featuring Ryden’s art. Priced at $125 in the thick of the economic recession, YHWH did not instantly sell out.

YHWH sculpt by Dave Pressler

YHWH sculpt by Dave Pressler

It’s a challenging piece. For one thing, the name is unpronounceable, and for another, well, a bunny totem with religious implications just wasn’t the typical monkey-yeti-spraycan of the late 2000s designer toy scene. Per Mark Ryden:

YHWH is the unpronounceable name of god. My YHWH represents the indefinable nature of the divine and its unspeakable mystery, which can be represented by anything from a burning bush to a three-eyed bunny totem. In creating my YHWH toy edition, I strove to elevate each and every individual figure from a mass produced piece of plastic to a magical object.

It took three years to produce the magical object, and in the end, the female companion figure hit the cutting room floor.

YHWH vinyl toy by Mark Ryden, produced by Necessaries Toy Foundation

YHWH vinyl toy by Mark Ryden, produced by Necessaries Toy Foundation

What does a toy art gallery owner do with a surplus of $125+ vinyl bunny totems? read full article

Posted in 3D Art Shows, customs, Editorials, Events, Toys, vinyl | 1 Comment

Die Antwoord’s Evil Boy Toy Now Available in Red, Black and Green!

Written on by jeremy

Die Antwoord's Evil Boy Toy

Last February, Ninja and Yolandi of South African Zef Rap Rave band Die Antwoord graced our fair city of San Francisco. They came to play music and release a vinyl toy, which makes this pretty much the best opportunity ever to use the expression “rock out with your cock out.”

Die Antwoord signing at Upper Playground, San Francisco

The duo debuted the Evil Boy toy in a customized white edition of 45 pieces at a signing and one-day art installation. (I was in attendance.) These initial figures sold out at $200 each, but now Upper Playground is releasing three additional colorways (“Red Hot Love,” “Black Out” and “Greeny”) in editions of 168, 216 and 96, respectively for $75 a piece.

Die Antwoord's Evil Boy Toy

The Red Hot Love Edition Evil Boy was made in an edition of 168.

Evil Boy is a 6-inch designer vinyl toy created by Die Antwoord and produced by Good Smile Company in China. The Evil Boy character may be based on the Tokoloshe (more on that here), and it’s available online now here. Click through to see pics of all three colorways. Gee, which one will Jeremy get?

[A big thank you to Delme for giving me the tip (but just the tip).]

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Post-Punk and New Wave Singers as Comic Book Superheroes

Written on by jeremy

Post-Punk Superheroes by Butcher Billy

Did you just blink twice and find yourself in a parallel universe where Ian Curtis is the Dark Knight and Siouxsie Sioux rocks bullet-proof bracelets? Unfortunately, no, but you are looking at the amazing artistic convergence of new wave and post-punk musicians with comic book superheroes.

Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo as The Flash. Post-punk Superheroes by Butcher Billy.

These epic pairings are the handiwork of a Brazil-based graphic designer and illustrator called Butcher Billy. Mr. Billy depicts Morrissey (Smiths) as Superman, Robert Smith (The Cure) as Plastic Man, Johnny Lydon (Sex Pistols, Public Image Limited) as Firestorm, Ian Curtis (Joy Division) as Batman, Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Creatures) as Wonder Woman, Billy Idol (Generation X) as Aquaman and probably my favorite–Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) as The Flash.

Post-punk Superheroes by Butcher Billy.

The artist poses some rhetorical questions:

What makes a pop culture icon? Would it be the effect of their contribution to a cultural movement? Is it the way they impact the time and the generation they are targeting? Or just how their exposure constitutes a defining characteristic of a given society or era?

And to that I’ll add: Do we consider their impact on other art forms (like these Joy Division and Smiths albums as books in poster form!) as evidence of their enduring legacy?

Robert Smith of The Cure as Plasticman. Post-punk Superheroes by Butcher Billy.

Growing up in the 80s, Butcher Billy was influenced by “everything from Saturday morning cartoons on TV to the music coming from the radio.” He continues:

Ian Curtis or Johnny Rotten are as iconic to me as Superman or Batman. Real people or imaginary characters, the incorruptible ideals of perfect superheroes or the human flaws and desires sometimes so desperately depicted in song lyrics–all of those influences affect us to the point of defining our character and personality, career paths and life choices.

I unequivocally agree with that! These artists and their music defines me to this day.

Billy concludes: “The references [to which] we are exposed and specifically the ones we choose to absorb make us who we are. Who are your heroes?”

All of the above of course! Butcher Billy’s new wave and post-punk superheroes are available as affordable art prints ($20 for an 8×10), T-shirts, gadget skins and more in his online shop. (While you’re there…sad sack gamers may enjoy his 8-Bit Smiths project and Clockwork Orange aficionados might delight in imagining what if Nickelodeon was into Ultraviolence?)

Morrissey as Superman. Post-punk Superheroes by Butcher Billy.

Click through for the rest of the post-punk superheroes, which do not (yet) include, but (hint, hint for future series) count among their contemporaries (a few suggestions) Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Lux Interior of The Cramps, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, Mark E. Smith of The Fall, Nina Hagen, Lydia Lunch, James Chance…

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Posted in 2D, Art, illustration, Pop CULTure, prints | 1 Comment