What is it about vinyl toys that gets everyone so excited? 

Funny Munnys

click to enlarge Thirty artists made munnys for 
the Redux charity auction
  • Thirty artists made munnys for the Redux charity auction

The Munny Show 2.0
On view Aug. 20-22
Auction Aug. 22, 8 p.m.
Redux Contemporary Art Center
136 St. Philip St.
(843) 722-0697
www.reduxstudios.org

Oh, those artists. They'll use anything they can get their hands on. Billboards, buildings, posters, and shirts. Sneakers, hats, skateboards, and semi trailers.

And let's not forget about the Munny.

The Munny is a vinyl toy that visual artists use to fill the world's blank spaces with their particular brand of expression. A graffiti artist views the dull gray wall on the backside of a Piggly Wiggly as an enticing canvas. An enterprising artist recognizes that a new pair of high tops, detailed with the right amount of hip design, can trampoline an art career into a better time zone.

And just about any artist can take the Munny, a chubby doll with an oversized head and cartoonish ears, and turn it into a unique character, a diminutive reflection of his tastes and sensibilities.

That such a trend should occur does not come as a surprise, especially in an art world that is ravenous for new and different forms of expression, as well as society's current fascination with building alternative versions of ourselves and our communities online.

But what is surprising is the genuine sense of excitement the Munny dolls elicit, the childhood glee that burns in the eyes of someone who has just opened a box containing one of these three-dimensional canvases.

It's with this sense of excitement that B'zar, the hip clothing store on Upper King Street, has spearheaded a campaign of Munny artwork. Culling 30 artists from Charleston and beyond, B'zar has planned for this Friday night a live auction at Redux Contemporary Art Center that will showcase these highly stylized dolls.

click to enlarge munny2.jpg

"We support new ideas," says Gustavo Serrano, owner of B'zar, "especially ones that give artists a chance to work on something they are all really into."

Serrano will do the fast talking as the auctioneer. All proceeds go to support Redux's After School Outreach program. A DJ's beats will fill the air. There might be a dark room for the glow-in-the-dark Munnys. And artists will be on hand to discuss how their Munny's personality and look came to be.

Experimental in its approach, the Munny, which in this case is made by a company in New York called Kidrobot, offers artists a chance to shake free from their inhibitions, to flesh out a thought or feeling or idea that otherwise might not find its way into a more traditionally serious piece.

But the Munny's canvas, with its rolling contours and unbalanced shape, has distinct challenges as well.

"I made one the last time, and it was really tough," Serrano says. "This time I said I've got my own Munny (points to his little boy, Mateo), so you guys go on without me."

The people involved in this charitable, carefree event have an opportunity that is equally unique — that is, they can examine, prod, speculate on what all this Munny business means, albeit with a sense of humor and camaraderie.

But you have to wonder if the mainly young participating artists feel such a strong connection to the Munny because of some nostalgic high — a feeling akin to opening presents on Christmas morning.

After all, each Munny arrives with a bag of mysterious goodies used to accessorize the doll. Once the dolls become their distinctive selves, they become an extension of their owners, enabling these hip grown-ups to get in touch with their unhip and more innocent inner child.

Even so, with proceeds helping real kids enjoy the splendors of childhood, and such talented artists as Kevin Taylor, Jarod Charzewski, Sheepman, and Christina Rodino coming into town from across the U.S., it's plain to see that a little playtime still goes a long way.

"Each time you open one, you're like, 'What's going to be inside?'" Serrano says. "'What am I going to get?'"

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