Tag Archives: custom vinyl toys

“Art Sucks. I Quit.”

This is the title of artist Lily Black’s current show, on display at Kuhl Frames through March 26th.

This was our first (and favorite) stop of last Friday night’s Art Murmur, despite hitting several other galleries later in the evening.

Lily Black, repurposed erotic toys, japanese erotic toys

For starters, this show actually opened in February, so the typical crowds accompanying a First Friday opening were not swarming the space. It actually allowed us to spend time with these small and incredibly detailed works of art, and also chat at length with the artist himself.

Surprised that Lily is a “him”? I was too. But that’s just one of seemingly many quirks that makes this artist, and his work, particularly interesting.

For starters, how about creating an art show around the premise that “Art is over”? He goes on to say that “photography is dead” as well, which I sometimes struggle with myself… ah, it’s all been done before, countless times, hasn’t it? And yet, in this exhibit, Black presents us with something fresh, intriguing, and at times, hilarious.

Take for example the pairing of a scrawled note-to-self-list Black found on an AC Transit bus, with a historical photograph of the first steam engine installed in the engine compartment of an AC transit bus. We see in the photograph the number 666 stamped above the engine compartment. The stranger’s list is scrawled on a piece of Catholic Church stationary (an envelope to be precise) and includes such items as:

  • No sex for 530 days Mondays
  • No fighting outside at all with the police
  • Don’t make things
  • No weed to smoke outside or indoors
  • Take children to zoo, not to church, ok
  • Take teenagers to the show, not church
  • Don’t make bikes to sell

And the list goes on… The threads that tie these pieces together are tenuous.  And yet, it makes sense when presented together in gorgeous framing that Kuhl Frames has provided (more on this later). In fact, Black states that the “presentation” of the photographs he’s incorporated, “is the whole of their presence as art objects.  The onus is on the viewer to bring meaning.”  And isn’t this what good art asks of us?

assemblage art, Lily Black, Kuhl Frames, Art Sucks I Quit

The show was a collection of these types of assemblage art (pairings of photographs, historical artifacts, bugs, toys, etc mounted in shadow boxes) and smaller sculptural creations (“re-presented” modified toys, such as the erotic figurines at top, or the “Storytime” tableau below).

What you don’t see in my photo of this seemingly innocent storybook scene, is that Papa Bear and Baby Bear are looking at porn… two large breasts (human, to be specific) fill the pages of their book.

Lily Black, Kuhl Frames, Art sucks I quit

The erotic figurines at top and the robotic figure below are classic Black… reimagined, reconfigured, and repurposed toys with such an acute attention to detail, you’d be hard-pressed to envision these in any previous incarnation.

Take a look at the shoulder shields on this character below… they’re actually Lee Press-on Nails. Talk about creative reuse! The entire piece is finished with a hand painted patina of aging that looks unbelievably realistic. And this is what Black is known for… “His attention to detail, use of random materials, and his thought-provoking messages.” (1amsf.com)

Lily Black, custom figurines, "Art Sucks. I Quit"
After we left the gallery, Tim said, “Why didn’t you take any pictures? You should have interviewed him for the blog! etc.” I guess I was feeling shy or something, or perhaps was just so engrossed in the show and discussion that documenting it all became secondary.

In any case, I went back the next day to take photos (while dropping off several pieces to be framed). And thankfully, someone else has already taken the time to produce a wonderfully humorous and insightful interview with Black… Who is Lily Black? (1:AM SF)

The show is only up for two more weeks – go check it out!

More on Kuhl Frames tomorrow…

And more reading:

Let’s Get Small by DeWitt Cheng (East Bay Express)