Designer toy store Munky King held an early celebration for the Chinese Year of the Tiger with the opening reception of "For the Love of Tiger," an art exhibit by Martin Hsu and Andrew Brandou at its flagship store on Melrose Ave. Guests packed the exhibit area near the back of the store where they got to speak with Hsu while DJs R Rated and Colby spun a number of hip-hop and Motown classics. The designer toy store regularly hosts art exhibits from local and independent artists from the art and toy world.
The event was a first for Hsu, a graphic design artist and animation major from California State University Fullerton. Munky King owner Patrick Lam invited Hsu to host an exhibit of his work after meeting him at Comic-Con where Hsu was in attendance the past five years selling his work. He agreed and invited his mentor Brandou to exhibit his work as well.
"I've always been a big fan of tigers because traditionally, in Chinese culture, tigers are a symbol to protect kids," said Hsu who emigrated from Taiwan in 1981 with his family. "All the parents, especially mothers, make hats, shoes and outfits of tigers for their kids to wear to protect them from harm."
His first piece, "Protect. Revive.," features a group of children wearing hats shaped like a tiger's head as they hold hands around a tree whose top portion is also shaped like a tiger's head and face.
The piece was a bit of a departure for Hsu, whose character designs you might recognize from the Nickelodeon show Ni Hao, Kai-lan. "Coming from an animation background, I normally want to render everything out," he explained. "I wanted to concentrate more on the decorative aspect of it and be inspired by Chinese folk art. What you see is more graphic, more decorative and more festive."
Hsu and Brandou hope to bring awareness to the tiger's status as an endangered species through their art. Hsu holds a special interest with the South Chinese tiger, a.k.a. the Amoy or Xiamen tiger.
"Scientists believe it to be functionally extinct which means there have been no sightings of one in the past 25 years," said Hsu. "It's also considered to be the stem tiger, which means that all subspecies of tigers come from that one tiger."
"I want to reverse the roles in this exhibit," he continued. "It's tradition that the tigers protect the kids but, with my paintings, I want the kids to protect the tigers. The kids represent all of us and it's up to us to make this difference in the world."
"For the Love of Tiger" runs through March 11th.
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