The ART + ACTION = OBAMA 08 exhibition went down as a night to remember at Toy Tokyo’s gallery space, The Showroom NYC. After all the harried preparations by the ART + ACTION artists, Jailbreak Toys, agitprop media, Toy Tokyo, and sponsors Singha and Halcyon, everything finally came together in an absolutely stellar event.
There were lines down the block for a majority of the evening as New Yorkers jockeyed to get a look at more than 80 one-of-a-kind Obama Action Figures, customized by contemporary art superstars, toymakers, and graffiti legends. Folks were excited: snappin’ pics, smilin’, drinkin’, and dancin’ to the dope tunes from funk collective Truth & Soul.
The first piece sold before the show opened; “Brand New Funky President” by Suckadelic, which went to one of his loyal collectors in California. The first piece to sell at the show was another complete standout, “‘O’” Bomba” by Strong Island-style graffiti legend and clothing designer to the stars, Phetus. The next was Beck(y)‘s incredible “Here’s To You Joe 6-Pack” of 6 bottle-capped Obamas marked “Rich Brown Ale.” And on and on it went, with excited Obama fans buying a unique piece of history while donating to the Obama For America campaign.
We were blessed to have contemporary artstar Ron English on hand at ART + ACTION to sign his “Abraham Obama” posters, not long after he finished his American tour with his massive 12′ x 11′ renditions of the poignant Obama/Lincoln hybrid image. Ron turned out to be mad cool, and so humble!
Israel “Lev” Levarek, owner of Toy Tokyo, and Kenny Levarek, manager of The Showroom NYC, did an incredible job of making the event run smoothly. Since its debut exhibition of subway graffiti art Tag The System in 2004, The Showroom NYC has always been a mecca for underground artists. The Showroom NYC’s past exhibitions represent a who’s who in the world of contemporary art: Mars-1, Dalek, KAWS, Oliver Vernon, Jeff Soto, Shepard Fairey, and many, many more.
Coincidentally, Mars-1 was the first artist to light a fire under ART + ACTION. Once Mars-1 signed on to customize an Obama Action Figure, getting other notable artists and toymakers to sign onto the project was a piece of cake: Damion Silver, Michael Joo, Brin Berliner, Nemo, and Erick Scarecrow to name a few. Shepard Fairey was also a huge support to ART + ACTION. He donated 100 “Hope” posters to be given away at the exhibition and 10 signed prints to be sold at auction to benefit the Obama For America campaign. The thrilled look on people’s faces when they were handed the iconic “Hope” image at the door was absolutely priceless.
Way behind the scenes of the event was agitprop media group, headed by music branding genius Ko Kawashima. The agitprop team, including PR superstar Todd Fraser, Viral Marketing maven and Curator Jenn Breckenridge, and graphic design wiz Marnin Schwartz-Lachar, worked tirelessly to make the ART + ACTION event an evening to remember. And it was.
Breckenridge talked about the curating ART + ACTION, “I loved this project! Everyone involved helped to raise thousands of dollars for Obama and brought complete joy to New Yorkers in the process. I thought J*Rock’s original Obama toy was genius and now all these artists have taken his action figure to a whole other level. I would have never guessed that playing with toys could be so meaningful.”
Jailbreak Toys would like to thank once more all the artists, patrons, our incredible photographers Levi Stolove and Erick Gonzales, Lev and Kenny along with the super fun staff at Toy Tokyo, Truth & Soul, our incredible volunteers Lisa DeNarvaez and Heather Umlah, Singha, Sirius Radio, and of course, to the man with the superplan, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.