Twenty-four-year-old Tyler Coey's MUTT toy is a hand-assembled plastic box cut out of PVC with an angled face and a rounded tail. That's all. But hand the simplest of toy platforms to 50 artists, and the MUTTs become a heard of mixed-up mongrels beyond their creator's most paint-fume-enhanced fantasies.
Coey, an artist in his own right, got really into vinyl toys like those made by Kid Robot and, locally, Jeremy Madl, appreciating how they provided a canvas for artists and designers to stretch their creativity in 3-D. He decided to try to make his own platform. Conveniently, his mother owns a sign company, and at the shop one night, Coey experimented with the materials there until he'd created a cute, boxy creature named MUTT.
Coey wanted to sell the toys on his Web site, but first, he knew he had to create a buzz. So he gave away MUTT toys free to 50 artists -- several here in KC -- and told them to go nuts. The resulting exhibition opens tomorrow (May 1) at the A.Okay Official gallery in Chicago, at 3270 N. Clark. It's called The MUTT Show: Reloaded. ("Reloaded," because the exhibition actually started its journey in New York City on April 3.)
MUTTs by Kansas City artists Trenton Matthews, Adrian Halpern, Hector Casanova, Useless, Eggs, Gear, Oktobot and Sike are included in the show.
"People use traditional materials, like acrylic paint and spray paint," Coey tells The Pitch. "But as far as non-traditional, I've seen people use bendy straws and buttons and little scraps from other toys. ... It's been really fun to watch."
The MUTTs sell for $15. A MUTT with a slit in its back doubles as a
bank and sells for $25. Monster Hunter, Coey's newest addition to the
toy line, goes for $30.
You can also buy accessories for the MUTT, like plastic Kanye glasses and horns, for $1.50 apiece.
Coey says the business end of toy-making comes secondary. "It's
really a passion project," he says. "It's not something I plan on doing
forever, probably, but as long as it can maintain itself for the most
part, without running me broke, I'd love to do it as a service to offer
a different platform to artists."
Coey studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design in
Ohio and took a brief spin around New York before coming back home and
moving to the Crossroads. "I think it's the best place ever," he says
of KC's artists' hub. "I love the community of the Crossroads. Even
though it can sometimes be like a giant high school, as far as the
gossip and stuff."
If Coey doesn't want to hear too many whispers behind his back, he'd better start planning a MUTT exhibition in KC soon, ahem.
The MUTT Show: Reloaded runs this weekend only, May 1-3.
Here's the MUTT MySpace Page.