To the growing list of man-made consumer goods that have recently crossed into the realm of art–we're talking automobiles, video games, the occasional smartphone–be sure to count one more: Toys.
The Toy Art Gallery has moved to the middle of the Melrose shopping district. When I visited the gallery on a recent rainy afternoon, it seemed like the move (from a spot over on Seward among film rental warehouses) did wonders for foot traffic. A group of excited Italian speaking tourists walked in and snapped endless photos of the displays.
Head curator Gino Joukar claims that his gallery is the first of its kind, and it's currently overrun with jumping brains, variations on a toy originally designed by Emilio Garcia. The intricacy of pieces by Cris Rose and Jason Freeny call to mind an exhibition of small-scale sculpture rather than the toy aisle at Target. It certainly doesn't hurt that Joukar has excellent taste. Be sure to check out the back of the gallery's space, which represents a small piece of Joukar's collection of pop art paintings and prints from the likes of Arkiv and Gary Baseman. Prices at the gallery are reasonable for the neighborhood, spreading from $6 to $6,000. Perfect for window shopping and thrift-ing alike.
True art is said to be divorced from function. The thought that ran through my mind as I walked around the gallery, peering into the glass cases, is the same thought I'd have had at age 8: This art could be seriously played with. Epic battles of good versus evil sprawling across living room couches. I looked at the gallery's handwritten signs reading PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH :) and recalled the feeling of tearing apart a fresh GI : Joe package and enlisting the fresh soldier in toy warfare.
Maybe the art of toys is in resisting that urge. Or succumbing to it.