Many of LA-based Johnny ‘KMNDZ’ Rodriguez‘s pop surrealist paintings celebrate birds, often depicted in and sometimes literally wearing the most unusual of bird houses—bombs, grenades, robot heads, farm houses and more. The curious and clever winged ones have adapted to their changing environments, shifting from the natural to the man made. As part of a special capsule collaboration with the House of Blues, Rodriguez created Hobs, a water tower bird inspired by the iconic structures which beckon music and food lovers to the restaurants for which he is named.
The Hobs figure—skillfully produced by 3Dretro—is striking with its reality-bending concept with the weathered, old-fashion water tower enclosing all of the bird’s head except for its long, curved beak. The sculpt makes strong use of its numerous individual parts to achieve the distinctive shape the concept demands. This approach is most notable in terms of the beak that extends far beyond the water tower in a fashion rarely seen in art toys. Other impressive details include the sculpted ends of feathers which jut just below the bottom edge of the water tower, further creating the sense that a bird lies within. Relative to Rodriguez’s paintings which typically feature birds with spindly, delicate legs, the larger and thicker three-toed feet are the one conspicuous concession of artistry to the reality of gravity and the need for the stability they provide.
Following its debut as a House of Blues Exclusive as part of the October 2018 capsule collection and a subsequent vibrant Red edition, the distinctive Hobs vinyl art toy returns today (4.8) in a Tenacious Toys exclusive GID edition. At first glance the new exclusive edition bears a strong resemblance to the OG House of Blues edition with little hint of being a glow in the dark toy. Wisely, the artist has chosen to take a subtle approach to glow by retaining the painterly, brush-like deco which gives Hobs a distinctive, organic appearance.
Starting with a hand-painted master sample from the artist, the factory has managed to recreate his overall original visual feel with colors blending seamlessly and naturally throughout the entire figure from the water tower to Hobs’ elongated beak, tail feathers, body and feet. The result is a production vinyl toy that delivers on the promise of a three-dimensional painting/art object, remarkable given the complexity of the source material. With at least several hundred production vinyl figures in my personal collection, few deliver the sense of a hand-painted art piece as well as Hobs does with each edition from the Tenacious Toys exclusive to the OG edition.
In lieu of the vibrant orange, reddish hues of the original edition, the Tenacious Toy exclusive offers a more neutral-hued approach with a stylishly pared-down treatment which allows the slight green of the GID vinyl used for the sides of the water tower and the feet to peek through and between the weathered-style paint. As suggested before, this choice prioritizes the figure’s concept over maximizing the glow effect. While the GID exclusive has a definite glow, most pronounced in the feet, less so on the sides of the water tower, the effect is subtle relative to a pure GID figure. Think of it as an extremely well painted figure which offers ‘stealth’ GID features as an added wrinkle.
From Johnny Rodriguez’s imagination-provoking, pop-surrealist concept to the visually striking, ambitious sculpt and the organic, painterly deco, Hobs stands as one of the finest art toy releases of 2018/2019.