When I walked into the Showroom in NYC to see 100 (Circus) Punks Rule NYC! I didn't really know what to expect. I mean, I dig the Circus Punks as an art medium. There are some great pieces out already by the likes of Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman Frank Kozik, and David Horvath to name just a few. But while these are runs of around 200, this will be a show of one-of-a-kind Punks by an assortment of artists never before seen together in the same space. For the uninitiated, Circus Punks were originally known as knock-down dolls and could be found at carnivals and midways where patrons would throw baseballs at them for prizes. The carnies took great pride in their dolls and often handpainted their booth's targets. This art is over 150 years old and is called by Circus Punk founder, Paul Cruikshank, to be one of the first truly American art forms. Now he has resurrected the idea and with an impressive list of artists creating Punks, it's made quite a splash in the art world: toy and otherwise. But knowing all this, I still wasn't prepared for the sensory overload of over 100 custom made Punks filling the shelves in the space to total capacity. This show is truly worth checking out.
The show is nothing if not eclectic. There are Circus Punks created by street artists like SEEN, Ewok, and Bigfoot; toy designers such as Drastic Plastic's Klim, kidrobot's friend Tristan Eaton, and Devil Robots; more traditional gallery artists such as Craola, Jim Koch, and Andrew Bell; as well as big names (not that the ones listed weren't impressive) like Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, and David Horvath. This is just the tip of the iceberg. With over 100 one-of-a-kind Circus Punks to look at, I felt a little dizzy. Of course there were traditional Punks with clown faces and brightly colored hair frames. There were also quite a few vagina and penis references (some more obvious than others and one johnson was 3-D!!) Renditions of rock stars David Bowie, Sid Vicious (considered by many to be the original punk), and KISS stared back at me telling me to go get drunk and learn how to play guitar. Some were drawn on with a Sharpie, some painted, some cut up and remade, and some had pieces added. My picks of the show were by artists who really surprised me with their creativity. First was Toy Baroness's Virgin Mary. This piece really impressed me with a golden background and gold ribbon replacing the fur. It even had votive candles in front of it completing the look. Also, David Hyuck's two pieces really grabbed everyone's attention who walked into the space. He created an octopus like creature and a prehistoric bird. The Octopus had tentacles of course, and a huge eye. The bird was turned sideways so it had fur running down its back instead of the surrounding fur being on the edges. These both were quite an undertaking since they had so much stitch work involved. I have to admit that before this show I had never heard of Brad Isdrab, but his Punk was really sick! He cut open the form, took out the stuffing, and replaced it with anatomically correct internal organs. This really stood out to me, even though it had a simple white base and two round, black eyes. Also worth mentioning is Miq Wilmontt's Hindu inspired piece. With eight arms, four heads, flames on each hand and sitting on an incense earn; it was simply amazing. Amazing is a good word for this entire show.
The backroom was very special. Here stood a six foot tall wooden Punk with autographs and sketches by some of the artists who showed, but across the room from that was something even better. A large canvas was tacked to the wall and all the artists who came to the opening did a sketch on it. It was Sharpie heaven!! The curators of the show, Paul Cruikshank, Jim Koch, and Steven Richard were on hand and were very happy to talk with everyone interested, whether they were on board since the first Helper Circus Punk, or if they were just coming in out of curiosity. Everyone was very approachable and seemed to be really happy with the turnout both of the Punks and patrons.
If you are in New York City before October 20th, definitely take time to stop by 100 (Circus) Punks Rule NYC at the Showroom on 2nd Avenue in New York City. It's an amazing show and I hope it's the first of more to come!