Kaiju Comrades Day One –

What follows is my semi rambling blog about my trip to Japan and the Kaiju Comrades 2 art toy show in Tokyo, March 9th-16th, 2010 ….

Having arrived in Japan on a Wednesday evening my good friend and fellow curator of this show Yo picks me up from Narita airport. Then off to a nice dinner and talk about the impending storm of art pieces still to arrive.. to mount a show like this containing 42 artists and over a hundred pieces, one must deal with all types of personalities ( well, you know how those artists can be ?! ) We talk about whose got their stuff in on time and those who have not.. I’ve done and seen enough shows to know this is how it goes and really not to sweat the details. But still nerve racking when your trying to make name tags for the art pieces and such…
It’s late and we start early so time for sleep … of course, I proceed to get up at 4 am, 5 am, 6am, at which point i say heck I’m wide awake and up for the day !
It’s Thursday morning we catch a quick breakfast and head our way to the Shinjuku station.. as I glance up i see this guy ( pic above ) Geez, that looks just like me I say .. I’m Dr. Foot ! Well, being of Japanese decent I suppose there is a good chance my doppelganger is walking around here in Japan !

2 stops away and we’re at the Harajuku station, a short walk down this trendy fashion street and we’re at the Design Festa East gallery.

An empty gallery is like a blank canvas .. so many possibilities ..what will this show look like ? Will anyone show up to see the show ?! Will it all fit into this space !
One by one different artists arrive to help set up and to bring their artwork in. Some of these artists I know , like SunGuts, Dream Rockets, Hariken, while others I’m not sure who they are and it’s at these times I kick myself for not learning Japanese …
Soon the shelves are assembled and than a huge shipment of boxes of all sizes arrive. Fueled by Pizza provided by SunGuts we begin…

I’m so thankful that even though I can not fully communicate with each artist they freely give of their time and everyone dives in to help hang and display the work… care is taken to give everyone a nice presentation and every now and then, we stop to admire someones work or laugh at my lack of Japanese or broken English ( Engrish ) being tossed around. It’s at this moment it strikes me… it’s really not about the toys or art, no, it’s about these connections and moments. I digress .. many of you know i collect Ultraman toys.. I suppose rather obsessively some will say …but the past few trips to Japan I’ve done less toy searching and shopping. This time I didn’t even set foot into the Nakano Mall, nor any vintage toy store .. it’s not that I’m not interested but have reached a point in collecting that there’s not much left I’m looking for ( at least in an affordable way )
Back to the gallery set up .. and what i now collect is Memories .. I’m collecting memories and experiences. And it dawns on me that these memories are the ultimate collectible.. unique to each human being, no two being the same .. my pictures of this show and trip, my writing about it .. all unique to me. It may be that I am more sensitive to memories having seen and presently dealing with relatives with Alzheimers.. but toys come and go, they sit in your collection and than move onto the next collector.. we enjoy them for a time and move on …these connections with people are what propel me to do shows like this.

Carlos Enriquez Gonzales and Gino Joukar ( Toy Art Gallery – TAG ) stop by during set up .. Carlos is from Venezuela and as many of you know creates show stopping sculptures.. many of which are adult in nature 😛 Gino is a great collector and supporter of many artists around the world and in Japan. I joked to Gino that i don’t come down to see him in Los Angeles, but we met in Japan 😉


we had a deadline of 4pm before the invite only reception began .. mostly for artists, friends and press … it’s 4pm and we still had a few more pieces to hang… the pressure mounted .. but everyone got a second wind and in what seemed like a few seconds all the empty boxes where stashed away, the trash was picked up and the show was done ! phew … more artists arrive and in few hours we all move to have dinner next door.

I decided not to take photos at the dinner .. I guess one because i was tired and wanted to just eat and secondly, I felt this was just a nice gathering and not a media event for me to post up later .. if that makes any sense ?… Everyone had a grand time and as the evening wound up, everyone stood up and gave me a standing ovation (!) much to my horror ;-P Geez, where’s Yo ( my translator and computer , ha-ha ) I look over at him and he says, say something ! Crap, now where’s my Japanese ??!! I mumble something lame, like Thank you for your beautiful art and support ..now you can go home ! There’s a pause and a few chuckles but no ones budging … hmmm, it’s times like this that stump me, culturally speaking … I guess my speech was too short so i say something else, which is now lost to the ether .. I guess that worked as folks started to file out … oh well, guess public speaking is not on my list of favorite things to do ;-P The night was over and the next day ( Friday ) would be the first time the public would see the show.


to be continued …

About toykarma

Over the years Mark Nagata has collected thousands of toys and a fair amount of titles. The man behind San Francisco-based Max Toy Company is widely known as: Toy Collector. Illustrator. Magazine Founder/Publisher. Toy Designer. Artist. Author. Husband. Father. But the one description that might fit best is an unofficial one – Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. In the Japanese-inspired art and toy area, as well as throughout the larger toy collecting community, Mark is welcomed and recognized for his personal passion and commitment to supporting artists all around the world and the unique works they create. Beginning as a collector in his youth, Mark has had for years a keen eye for great art and a personal interest in collecting that he has spread through a variety of outlets. Trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Mark honed his skills working for himself and for some of the most notable businesses in the country. As a freelance commercial illustrator, he completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilms, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and numerous advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces over 40 cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps. After hundreds of assignments, Mark made the decision to move in another direction, and that choice has led to whole new career as a successful businessman. For four years, the owner of one of the largest Ultraman toy collections in the world co-published Super 7 Magazine showcasing the finest in Japanese toy collecting. “I’d been collecting Japanese toys all along and suddenly realized it would be cool to have a magazine of some type devoted to them,” Nagata says. Mark’s devotion to presenting collectors with a selection of original figures inspired by classic Japanese toys from the 1960s and ‘70s as well as new versions of licensed Japanese characters is at the heart of Max Toy Company. Named for his son, Max Toys specializes in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys produced are hand painted by Mark, a tradition that goes back to Japanese toy makers of the past. “Since our target is the soft vinyl Japanese toy collector, which is a very small niche, our runs of toys can be extremely small,” Mark says. “Runs range from 500 pieces of one toy to just one for a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind custom figure.” Through Max Toys, Mark has taken great pains to widen the reach of his two passions – toys and art. He played a significant part in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States. Held at the Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois in 2007, the “Toy Karma” Show featured detailed work from artists from Japan, the U.S. and South America. Participants marveled at the custom-painted toys and art on display. “Toy Karma” led to Mark being asked to be one of the artists spotlighted in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The October 2007 show, held jointly with the Los Angeles Toy, Doll and Amusement Museum, marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured more than 30 of Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection. Mark continued to be at the forefront as interest in Japanese-inspired art and toys expanded in 2008. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions, spreading this unique art and toy movement into new and uncharted areas of the art world. In 2009, Mark once again took his love of toys and art overseas this time to a receptive and welcoming audience in Tokyo, Japan. Here, Mark curated the “Kaiju Comrades” Art Show, once again bringing together artists from various aspects of the kaiju toy realm in this first-of-its-kind toy art show. The following year found Mark in Barcelona, Spain co-curating with Emilio Garcia “Kaiju Attack,” the European country’s first kaiju art show. As the growth of kaiju art and toys increases worldwide, Mark continues in his unofficial role of Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. He has written and had his artwork and toy designs included in several books and magazines, both domestic and international. In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. The San Francisco resident and his art can also be spotted in the first volume of the “ToyPunks” DVD and the “Toys R Us” DVD, while the video for the number one song by Owl City “Fireflies” featured Mark’s popular Kaiju Eyezon character. During this same time period, Mark has spearheaded the “Toy Karma 2” and “Kaiju Comrades 2” shows and has plans for future shows both in the U.S. and overseas. “Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists,” Mark says. “Max Toy is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passions.”
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