Saturday night marked the opening of “TxB” at Toy Art Gallery on Melrose, a new show putting together Portland-based painter Bwana Spoons with Japanese toy sculptor T9G. The show also marked the introduction of TxB toys, a collaboration between Bwana Spoons and T9G, produced by TAG and featuring three unusual figures — Marty, Killer and Globby.
The show features playful monsters, or kaiju, often frolicking in beach settings. There were paintings, including a mural, and Bwana Spoons even brought the latest issue of his zine, Sleep It Off, but the focus was definitely on the toys.
The collaborative show was a match made in toy heaven. Bwana Spoons, who was previously featured in L.A. Weekly for his “Spoonful of Star Wars” series and is a regular in San Diego Comic-Con's exhibit hall, is a painter who emphasizes fanciful creatures and a color palette that evokes mid-20th-century pop culture, the era that saw the rise of the kaiju. Meanwhile, T9G sculpts some of the most intricate toys you'll see, often with the kind of googly eyes that pop up on retro crafts. Together, they filled TAG with a charming display that was clearly popular with toy collectors. I saw a lot of red dots marking sold items by the end of the night.
With both Spoons and T9G, the beauty is in the details, and here those details extend beyond the figures. Central to the show is a series of sand-covered tables filled with trees, rocks, a beach shack and a smattering of seaside debris. The displays showed off some of the most unusual, customized items in the show. My favorite was a version of Killer, one of the three figures in the TxB collection, credited to T9G. The beached whale featured a clear tail filled with brightly colored balls and a small cluster of bunnies nailed in where a spout should be. The bunnies reference another T9G toy, MOZnail.
T9G's figures always require a close inspection. Without one, you're guaranteed to miss at least one cool feature. MOZnail is an example of this. These monster sculpts feature bunnies nailed to the head, but it takes a second glance to realize that the monster's brain is exposed. His Itch customs, also available at TAG, feature creatures with Viking helmets that open up to expose a skull. One of his most interesting figures, though, is called Slyly Far. These beasts are already unusual in that they're furry, but take a close look into the mouth and you'll find another creature peering out from within the monster.
Bwana Spoons tends to deal with more straightforward figures. The details are in the paint jobs. For this show, Spoons showcased a variety of his popular figures Boris the Bee and Dolly in an unexpected mix of colors. He also brought in a series of miniature figures, each one expertly painted in a multitude of hues. They're adult toys that still embrace the whimsy of childhood, each one subtly psychedelic in appearance.
“TxB” runs through June 9 at Toy Art Gallery on Melrose Avenue.