It’s a bit of circular logic. Pop surrealism and the designer toy movement go hand in hand; they both subsist by feasting on the meatiest bits of the bloated corpse that is pop culture, and both expand in creative ways from pop culture’s implicitly commercial presence. Artists who work in the pop surrealist genre often slide sideways into designing “urban vinyl” art toys, and vice versa.
In both the cases of pop surrealist painting and designer toys, the modus operandi is about transcending the medium, but curiously, they do this in opposing directions. Pop surrealist painting endeavors to take painting less seriously and make it more accessible, while art toys attempt to elevate playthings into serious objects d’art that aren’t meant to be played with. Either direction you choose to move in, it’s giving a giant middle finger to “the establishment”, whatever that might be at any given time. All art movements are the product of rebellion against a theme or a deeper exploration into it, and these are obviously no exception.
These art movements which often concern themselves with childish or child-like subjects parallel ongoing concerns that culture in general is being infantilized. If you were to look at them without any greater context, they do both emphasize the idea of ‘fun’ and ‘play’ over any traditionally mature development of an idea. When America is being taken over by Disney Channel preteen stars, Candy Crush Saga and an overarching theme of shirking responsibilities for, well, doing whatever the heck you want, it’s not an unconcerning trend. Craig Ferguson said it best, in his treatise on why everything sucks:
These movements are an effort to take these things back using intelligence and creativity, and sway the flow of the pop mindset into something that makes the world better rather than making it more crowded. Which also mirrors the very reason that this site exists.
Sucklord, in his own way, addresses these ideas and summarizes the arrogance and folly of the art world in his creations.
I started collecting Sucklord stuff a long time ago. Long before his appearance on Work of Art. It started with an action figure, cast from parts of action figures sculpted by Hasbro or Mattel and reassembled, which included a Dungeons and Dragons die for a head. It’s not as though Sucklord attempted to obscure his sources, and that’s where the genius resides. There’s a disappointing number of “artists” who borrow and steal and never attempt to credit those whom they’ve stolen from, and this is especially obvious in the world of pop surrealism. It’s a relatively small world and everyone knows one another; when you borrow heavily from another artist, it’s freaking obvious, and it’s obvious quickly… but because the world is so small, and so fragile, no one calls out anyone else on this crap. It’s a circle jerk of the most epic proportions. If you want to see really bad artists trying to pimp out their crappy gallery shows of art that they didn’t really come up with on their own, check out any of the ads taken out by “artists” in any issue of Juxtapoz, and try to find one that doesn’t directly cannibalize someone better than themselves.
But I digress. By not masking his sources, and pulling from the most obvious and crass examples possible, Sucklord shows that it’s still possible to do this stuff without being a jackoff about it, while maintaining the outward persona of a total jackoff. It’s layers upon layers of art commentary, and when you dig to the bottom of it, the simplicity is genius. It’s giving the finger to the scene that created it, while remaining one of the most influential members of that scene. Sure enough, there are more than a few artists who mimic Sucklord’s approach and produce similar art toys, and one artist who even mocks Sucklord. He calls himself Schmucklord. But that’s another story.
SUCKLE figures, much like the OMFG figures (which are produced by the same company), continue the MUSCLE spirit, but while OMFG appreciates and continues the line, SUCKLE kind of revels in the fact that these are inexpensively produced toys that grown men go crazy over. They deliver the message that art toys are still just toys; you’re paying $150 for three dollars worth of mass-produced plastic because it has someone’s designer name attached to it, and it doesn’t even light up or make sounds or strike awesome action poses. You’re an idiot for buying this, no matter what your reasons might be; irony shouldn’t be that expensive, buying designer stuff is for people without personalities, and if you’re spending money on art, you should be spending it on something else. (These views don’t necessarily reflect on those of the author of this piece.)
SUCKLE are the result of an exceptionally successful Kickstarter, and are based on larger figures made by Sucklord. You can find them in multiple colors, but I opted for the ones pictured below.
It’s like a turducken of art. These are sculpts by George Gaspar, based on figures made by Sucklord, each piece of which had their own sculptors, based on characters created by other artists like the great Ralph McQuarrie. Each level has its own kind of significance and insignificance.
Everything is amazing and terrible, all of the time.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.