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Posts Tagged ‘Toys’

Veterans Day

November 11, 2014 | by

greenarmymendavidd

Photo: Davidd, via Flickr

Little green army men—they don’t have a more specific name—are now in the National Toy Hall of Fame, which exists, in Rochester, and held its 2014 induction ceremonies last week. For those of you who have never played Marble War or seen any part of the Toy Story franchise, I give you Wikipedia:

Army men are sold in plastic bags or buckets, and often include different colors such as green, tan, or gray, to represent opposing sides. They are equipped with a variety of weapons, typically from World War II to the current era. These include rifles, machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, grenades, flame throwers, and bazookas. They may also have radio men, minesweepers, and men armed with bayonets. The traditional helmets are the older M1 “pot” style that were given to US soldiers during the middle to late 20th Century. Army men are sometimes packaged with additional accessories including tanks (often based on the M48 Patton tank), jeeps, armed hovercraft, half-tracks, artillery, helicopters, jets, and fortifications. Their vehicles are usually manufactured in a smaller scale, to save on production and packaging costs. Army men are considered toys and not models due to this fact historical and chronological accuracy are generally not a priority.

Invented in 1938, little green army men went out of fashion during Vietnam, but they’ve never been off shelves. If you haven’t looked lately, they can be readily found at any dollar store. They’re mostly made in China. 

At the 2014 induction, the men in uniform were joined by sort-of-toy bubbles and five-time nominee Rubik’s Cube. It frankly would have been an outrage had the Rubik’s Cube lost out to either the Slip ’N Slide—one of the least fun things in existence and also not a toy—or the craven commercialism of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But who knows? It’s a cruel game. Flexible Flyer has never won because of its lack of snow-related geographical distribution, and the soon-to-be-discontinued sentimental favorite Hess Truck just lost out in its final run. But in the words of a Hess spokesperson, “We are honored that Hess Toy Truck was nominated.” I don’t think he or she was joking. 

If next year’s Nobel Prize is anything like the National Toy Hall of Fame, we hope Philip Roth proves a Rubik’s Cube, and not a Hess Truck.

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Disturbing Innocence

October 31, 2014 | by

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Kirsten, Star, 1997.

Croak_Dirt Baby

James Croak, Dirt Baby, 1986.

Peter Drake, Siege of Syosset, 2007.

Jake & Dinos Chapman, Doggy, 1997.

James Casebere, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County) #9, 2011.

David Levinthal, Untitled (Woman with arms raised from behind), 1989.

Edith And Big Bad Bill: Little Bear To The Rescue

Dare Wright, Edith And Big Bad Bill: Little Bear To The Rescue, 1968.

Beecroft_Blonde Figure Lying_detail

Vanessa Beecroft, Blonde Figure Lying, 2008

The artist Eric Fischl has curated “Disturbing Innocence,” a group show on display at the FLAG Art Foundation through January 31, 2015. More than fifty artists, historical and contemporary, are represented in the exhibition, which features work with a focus on surrogates—mannequins, dolls, robots, toys—and “presents a subversive and escapist world at odds with the values and pretensions of polite society.”

Fischl says in a preface to the catalogue:

Curiously, “toy,” “robot,” “mannequin,” and “doll” are all nouns with negative connotations embedded in their definitions, including phrases like “something of little value,” “non-important,” “subservient,” “a non-entity,” “without original thought,” “controlled by others,” “a pretty girl of little intelligence,” and “disposable.” The very thought of this goes against the profound experiential impact these supposedly trivial attachments have had on our imaginations and within our emotional development as children. It flies in the face of what we know from our own essential experience with our toys. The difference between children playing with their toys and adult artists using toys and other surrogates for their art, the way that male and female artists use these surrogates differently, are the crux of this exhibition.

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Fit to Print

August 14, 2014 | by

Silly-Putty_2

A 1965 ad for Silly Putty, plainly advertising its ability to pick up newsprint.

On Monday, the Times’s David Carr had a gloomy prognosis for the fate of print newspapers. He wrote,

It’s a measure of the basic problem that many people haven’t cared or noticed as their hometown newspapers have reduced staffing, days of circulation, delivery and coverage. Will they notice or care when those newspapers go away altogether? I’m not optimistic about that.

Carr and many others are alive to the societal, artistic, and human implications of this loss. All this aside, it means lost jobs. You don’t need me to say that, or to belabor the passing of an era. These things are too huge to contemplate.

So you start thinking about the stupid things. The oblong bags newspapers come in. What will people use to clean up after their dogs? Where will they get rubber bands? Will “train-style” folding become a lost art? And what about Silly Putty?

Silly Putty can’t really be called a major casualty in this overhaul, but it is something that will be decisively rendered extinct. It’s a retro toy now—if you can even call something which was so obviously the byproduct of industrial experimentation a “toy”—but with the death of the newspaper, one of its primary functions (if you can call it a function) will be nullified.

Silly Putty should be placed in a time capsule immediately on grounds of sheer weirdness. Try explaining it to an alien: “It’s putty, but it’s … silly. It’s sort of flesh-colored. It has a really distinctive chemical smell. It stretches, and snaps, and turns into a puddle. If you roll it up, it bounces like a ball. Oh, and it picks up newsprint. Then it gets really grubby and you keep it in a plastic egg, forever.” If Silly Putty’s origins are clear enough—it was a World War II–era attempt to address rubber shortages—its ability to transfer newsprint is more mysterious. How did someone figure this out? And how did anyone decide it was a selling point? Read More »

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Aesthetically Speaking

June 12, 2013 | by

I learned not only how to read from comic books, but also how to see. I learned about line, shape, color, value, space, texture, color, balance, harmony, unity, contrast, variety, rhythm, repetition, emphasis, continuity, spatial systems, structures and grids, proportion and scale, and composition by studying and copying the drawings from the comic books of my Italian childhood. The word disegno literally meant drawing, but also design. Thus, the two were forever fused in my mind, each inseparable from the other: drawing is design, and design is, essentially, drawing.

Il Gatto con gli Stivali (i.e., Puss ’n Boots).

Il Gatto con gli Stivali (Puss ’n’ Boots).

This drawing is but one example of childhood drawings (many, alas, have been lost or destroyed). They were done between the ages of four and six, circa 1971–73. I consider this by far my best period as an artist. The drawings are careful, sincere, and free of pretension. If my house were to catch fire, the small box of my remaining childhood drawings is the only artwork of mine I would try to save. Read More »

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Portfolio: Paul Gabrielli’s Toys

March 25, 2011 | by

Paul Gabrielli is a young deconstructionist sculptor who often works with false trompe l'oeil. His current show, “Generally,” includes a remarkable series of hung sculptures showcasing found, repurposed, and refined objects behind blister packs and mounted on backboards of edited landscape photography, toys lost in the uncanny valley between desire and critique.

Untitled, 2010, cloth, aluminum, C-print, archival board, plastic, staples, oil, acrylic, 13 x 11 x 1/2 in.

I call these pieces toys, but they’re more like tchotchkes. That might be a horrible thing to call a piece of art, but there’s something to be admired about the tchotchke: you own it, but it doesn’t function; you just kind of look at it. It’s not a relationship, like with toys, where you can actually play with them.

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