Monday, August 1, 2016

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters Preview

They did the mash, they did the Monster Mash! It was smash! That song might slowly swell up in your head as you enter the brand new Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibit that opens today at LACMA. Or before the song can set up in your head you might be scared by all the items inside. The exhibit, already on par with the Tim Burton Retrospective from a few years back, is another frightening collection of a collection. Coming mostly from director Guillermo del Toro's own collection from Bleak House, his study and collection of strange items and memorabilia from what looks like a haunted house. A few items come from LACMA's permanent collection along with walls of props from del Toro's own movies and goodies from all things sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

Del Toro, who was at LACMA for a book signing of the new catalog of the items in the collection last Saturday July 30, also visited us, albeit late from the 101 and construction on Wilshire, at the press engagement the next day, before the exhibit opened to the public.

When being presented to the press, a LACMA official joked about what del Toro's said earlier about lending his collection, "It was like having something amputated." It was a dark humored start to a fascinating man explaining why it was okay for him to have action figures and comic books as an adult.

The curator who helped him come up with the exhibit, Brit Larson, who he thanked for all her help, mentioned that though del Toro would just be driving up with last minute additions of taxidermied creatures over the last week he would start shooting his next movie starting on Monday.

"I'm not a collector," del Toro started to tell us, "I'm not. I'm not a hoarder. Really, because collector's know how the market is. How much everything is. They keep comic books in little bags. The keep their toys mint in box. I don't know about that. I play with toys, I read the books. I have a very permissive relationship with all the objects."

He continued later on, "I adore monsters. I love monsters. I think humans; I think we're pretty repulsive." He was explaining both what he loves to do in film showing us monsters and that also how humans, in his opinion, create their own fantasy about gender, class and geography.

"I am a Mexican, " he extolled later going on, 'when people ask what's Mexican about your films, 'I say, me." del Toro then explained how he brought aspects of his culture to the big screen.

After his live interview we were welcome into the exhibit. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters has you enter past del toro's Angel of Death from the Hellboy series. A strange figure you feel might be judging you as you move on...deeper inside.

What's that sound? What's there lurking? And where am I? The exhibit was designed to be a maze, with long halls and entrance that get you back and forth. Cracks in walls reveals hidden props. Thunder, scrapping, bugs and other sounds play games with you as you stroll through taking in each piece of art, movie prop or strange figure you come across.

Different sections manifest different elements of del Toro's likes and themes in his films. Eight sections all together, they have long lengths of items in each. There's "Childhood and Innocence" with themes of growing up, a very common trope of his films and bits and pieces of his own childhood mixed in. "Victoriana" has steam punk machines, clothing from his film Crimson Peak and other strange items. "Magic, Alchemy and the Occult" let's you look into Lovecraft. There's even a Lovecraft wax figure.

Knowingly, to frighten us all, the exhibit is filled with many wax figures both from horror movies or representing historic figures that are there to menace. The creepy, almost realistic looks on their faces as their scattered all over makes you think someone's there when they're not.

The figures from the film Tod Browning's Freaks really get under you skin, but at one point we thought we were disturbing Edgar Allen Poe as he was reading.

For fans of collecting, "Movies, Comic and Pop Culture" shows the del Toro, really doesn't care about how nice his items look, his collection looks, well used, as he stated earlier. Look out for Hellboy's Mike Mignola's work.

To my surprise and though possibly in a different section I was happy to see a cute early version of Dren from Splice (2009), which of course had del Toro help produce.  It wasn't even labeled. There's just so much to see, so look at every corner.

"Frankenstein and Horror" is another corner alongside "Freaks and Monsters" with a wide selection of Frankenstein memorabilia and monstrosities to stare at. It all ends with of course, "Death and the Afterlife," which showcases it's namesake.

Throughout the exhibit that art that hangs isn't to be missed either including multiple artists from films and comics. Strange figures and ideas represented that you wish would go up in haunted houses.

In many ways it's funny the exhibit will leave LA in November. That gives you three months to see it. It be perfect for haunted house in the month of October.  With it's dark foreboding interior, it's long halls with art drenched all over. Mysterious figures hidden throughout and strange items to study it be perfect and is perfect as a haunted house.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters
August 1, 2016–November 27, 2016 
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Unless otherwise noted all other pictures on this page are Installation photograph, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, August 1–November 27, 2016, photo © Joshua White /