There is a trend underfoot: designer toys or urban vinyl are becoming mainstream. These aren’t mass produced toys that you’d find in bigbox toy stores, in fact to call them “toys” is a bit misleading: these are pop art sculptures that happen to use toys as canvas.
Chances are you’ve seen urban vinyl toys. They are collectible figures and toys, made from vinyl or plastic, designed by both budding artists and famous ones alike. The whole thing got started in the late 1990s when Hong Kong artist Michael Lau created the first urban vinyl figure from an underground comic, which looked like a custom-made GI Joe action figure. After friends raved about the unique toy, one thing led to another and a genre was born. Now, you can find artworks by artists like Takashi Murakami, Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Coop, KAWS and Pete Fowler as urban vinyl.
This whole trend is captured by Ivan Vartanian in his new book Full Vinyl: The Subversive Art of Designer Toys. Ivan called the movement “subversive” because:
… we realized a consistently recurring theme: the act of subversion. Either the content of the work itself is subversive or the means of production is. The producers are subverting rules by how they work and the nature of their figures. Mass-produced toys are replaced by small-scale productions. Band-released “limited editions” are worthless compared to “insider picks.” Cute and pop characters have an erotic, aggressive, or gruesome element. High-brow is mixed with low-brow art.
Full Vinyl is like a who’s who of the urban vinyl movement: it has over 400 color photos of vinyl toys from the some of the most famous artists in the industry. True to form, the book comes with a corrugated cardboard cover (just like the box those toys come in!) and a cute vinyl squid keychain to boot!
But enough readin’, let’s see a couple of examples from the book:
Urban vinyl figures by Gary Baseman and Tim Biskup:
From Junko Mizuno and KAWS:
This fun one is from Nathan Jurevicius:
Last, but not least, from Pete Fowler:
That's not all: HarperCollins is kind enough to sponsor a book giveaway to kick off the launch of Full Vinyl. If you want a FREE copy of the book, please leave a comment on your most favorite urban vinyl artist/creation (you can mention a few, but please one comment per person) - top 10 comments will get a free Full Vinyl book (Note: I can only ship to US addresses, though).
And please, visit the website: Full Vinyl to order.
The review above as well as the giveaway are sponsored by HarperCollins.