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Monday, July 21, 2014

We Needed A Rap Contest at COWABUNGA!! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

"Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go!" was what I thought I'd be hearing upon entering gallery Iam8bit's
COWABUNGA!! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exhibit during it's opening reception Saturday night. Gabe Swarr's piece "Go Ninja!" was in the front gallery featuring the rapper Vanilla Ice chanting it out with the turtles in the background dancing to it. In the back gallery, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song was played with different remixes over and over while a projected screen played strange gifs and clips from all of Turtles media.

See the full gallery of photos from the opening reception 
Buy art from the show here
Gabe Swarr's "Go Ninja!"
Andre Meadows, best known for his own YouTube channel Black Nerd Comedy might have busted out singing the "Go Ninja Go!" rap, he was being filmed for a documentary in the back gallery. When he met Vanilla Ice at the last CES in Vegas he pulled down his pants to reveal some Ninja Turtle jammies and started to dance and recite the rap.  He laughed and told me, "This is great, I always love seeing artists interpretations of turtles because what's really cool about them being a comic series is you get to see that already." Adding, "What's nice about turtles specifically is you can do a variation of the cartoon, the comic or a variation of the video game." His favorite piece of the evening was Aled Lewis' "War and Pizza" because, "They used all the sprites from the Ninja Turtles arcade game where they were having a pizza eating contest. I thought that was pretty cool." Then he chuckled some more about the show. The next day he was due for a fan meet-up at Meltdown Comics on Sunset and Monday he'd be attending the premiere of the Angry Video Game Nerd Movie in LA for which he as a small role.

The line, before the start of the new exhibit celebrating thirty years of radical turtles who fight crime, was once again around the corner before it started at Iam8bit. Fans were lined up in Teenage Mutant t-shirts, but I saw no turtle van or pizza deliveries before heading in with the crowd around 7pm. I asked the dude in charge of gallery Iam8bit, co-owner Jon Gibson, why he was having a show for the beloved three-fingered teens. "There thirty-years-old, they aren't teenagers anymore, " he started. Jon went over some of his favorite pieces before telling me about how  of Jim Henson worked on the costumes for the first live action Ninja Turtles film. "There's been a lot of chatter of Jim Rugg's [The Black and White Explosion]... both me and Amanda, my partner and co-curator, really like this piece. We're always in love with the ballpoint pen renderings."

Art of all types was spread out around the gallery like pizza toppings ordered by the turtles, they were all so different, together they looked good, but if actually eaten would taste terrible like one of the famous odd pizzas from the cartoon.
Jude Buffum's "As Above, So Below"

 Fans had to look into the small nuances of Jude Buffum's piece "As Above, So Below" that made sprites out of the turtles and their foes Shredder and Krang and more. Jude managed to encapsulate the Turtle Blimp and the Technodrome as you followed the turtles from the top of New York City, threw the sewers, to inside the underground mobile fort. Kardboard Krang by John Sumner had the burping bad-guy made out of cardboard inside his robot body in a scary I'm-coming-to-get-you-position.

The four brothers were made in many mediums like crochet and acrylic; they were also transformed. They appeared as cupcakes, pixelated party animals , overweight incarnations and reckless motorists.

"I've always been pumped about how complicated the machine was that made the coffee in the theme song, " David Kloc related to me on his piece "It Cuts The Pepperoni". His piece made fun of the complicated machines Donatello would make in the first cartoon series that would be huge grinding gears for small results. His piece showed how much effort went into slicing Pepperoni.
Guin Thompson's "Secret Lair"

Guin Thompson took another approach creating and arts and craft themed lair of the turtles simply titled "Secret Lair". "Yeah, there's some little Easter eggs, there's a foot soldier, an Atari ET game, you know?, 'a boombox, a converse sneaker and and old VHS tape of the turtles' cartoon." She was referring to the hidden items buried underground that you could see in her piece that looked like an old action figure play-set, which inspired her work. Hana L., found Guin Thompson's 3D construction set her favorite, "I'm a fan of crafting myself, so I can see the process you go through and I like the 3D aspect of it." Earlier she said , "I'm a big fan of this gallery and I'm also a big fan of the cartoon growing up, " as a reason she came out for the opening.

Those sentiments were shared by Tim Smith who said, "I really love the Ninja Turtles, I love watching the cartoons, but as you get older it's hard to justify having those things[TMNT merch] in your house. So, it's really nice to see people more maturely look back on the nostalgia." He was walking away with the top of the arcade unit from the original arcade game being sold at the show.

On sale with the art were three special edition t-shirts from Iam8bit including: the turtles having a group high-five; a sewer lid logo and a joke making fun of Pizza Hut.

Athena Stamon was dressed as April O'Neil for the show and it's her job. She drives around with a turtle van for birthdays and events. The turtle van was sadly out of town during the opening reception. I asked if she's going to have to update her outfit for the new film coming out. "You know I really like the jumpsuit. I really wished they would have redone the jumpsuit in the new movie. But we'll see, maybe just a yellow jacket just for the fun of it, but not the whole thing.

As I left, fans were still coming in with costumes and I was thinking of grabbing a slice of pizza.