Saturday night, Power Rangers fans piled inside tiny Toy Art Gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
The event was “20 Rangers for 20 Years,” which brought together 20 artists from across the globe for the 20th anniversary of the franchise. Artists were giving 31″ Power Rangers statues to customize. The results were wildly different, and equally spectacular.
L.A.-based artist J*Ryu went the classical route. His piece, “The Statue of Jason,” was an homage to Michelangelo’s David. “I wanted to pay a tribute to the classic element of what it means to be a Power Ranger,” he says. J*Ryu noted that he didn’t want to change the look of the Power Ranger too much. In the process of making this piece, though, he had to do a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction. The artist, well-regarded for his work customizing toys, cut apart the original and rebuilt it. “If you notice, it’s static,” he says of the figure. “Everything that wasn’t there before, like the jointing, I had to recreate from scratch.” After that, he added a faux plaster effect. Originally, J*Ryu wanted to make the statue look as though it were cut from marble, but, in the end, he decided to go with a look that hinted at age. “I wanted people to understand that it was a little bit older,” he says.
Nicolette Davenport, by day a senior graphic designer for Saban Brands, played with age too in her contribution to the show. “It’s just a silly take on a Power Ranger, perhaps 20 years later,” she says of the aging and plump ranger spilling out of a too-small costume. Davenport spent a few weeks on her piece, customizing it in the after-work hours. “It was built off of the original plastic toy,” she says. “From there, I built a structure of styrofoam with toothpicks and crazy glue and hot glue and anything you can think of.” She topped off the piece with plastic clay, clear coating and resin.
Some chose to do mash-up pieces, the most unusual of which came from L.A. artist Josh Mayhem. His piece, called Steam Powered Ranger is actually a Power Rangers/Gundam hybrid. Mayhem frequently uses Gundam modeling kits to customize other toys in his work. “I ordered the biggest Gundam kit I could find,” he says. He used those pieces with some odds and ends leftover from past projects to give his Ranger the look of an oversized, steampunk robot.
“20 Rangers for 20 Years” was curated by Caro (first name only) of Sweet Streets, an artist management company based in Los Angeles with offices in Tokyo. Previously, Caro put together the traveling exhibition, “My Little Pony Project,” where artists customized large My Little Pony figures. Like the previous show, “20 Rangers” focuses on a long-running franchise that has a multi-generational fan base. Inside TAG, grown ups and small children arrived in Power Rangers uniforms. The art show also included a Power Rangers pop-up shop, which brought together merchandise from various sources, including We Love Fine t-shirts, a new collaboration with street wear brand Mishka, limited edition prints from Acme Archives and more. There was also a display of Power Rangers toys throughout the years.
There was a charitable component to the show as well. A portion of the proceeds from “20 Rangers for 20 Years,” which ran at TAG through Sunday, December 8, were going to Challengers Boys and Girls Club. Caro herself volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. The charitable aspect of the show helped dictate the curation of the work as well. “Because it’s Boys and Girls Club, I wanted it to be an even split of girls and boys,” says Caro of the artists for this show. While the bulk of the figures here were masculine Power Rangers, a couple artists, like Pretty in Plastic and Bei Badgirl, worked with feminized Power Ranger forms.
Because Sweet Streets is an artist management company that focuses specifically on female artists, some asked Caro why she would do a Power Rangers event, assuming the the TV series and toys were boy-centric. She didn’t see it that way. Caro grew up watching the first round of Power Rangers and cites the Pink and Yellow Rangers as “two really strong female leads. “Amy Jo Johnson is one of my idols,” she adds, naming the actress behind the first Pink Ranger, Kimberly Ann Hart. “It’s so great to have grown up with her, the Pink Ranger, and the Yellow Ranger on television.”
Undoubtedly, the Power Rangers made a significant impact on those who grew up in the 1990s. The tightly packed crowds inside the art gallery was testament to that.
Missed “20 Rangers for 20 Years”? You can check out works from the show in TAG’s online shop.
Images: Liz Ohanesian. All art from “20 Rangers for 20 Years.” Included in these photos are pieces by Superdeux, Tado, Kerry Horvath, Pretty in Plastic, J*Ryu, Mathew Curran and Josh Mayhem.