Burb's Eye View: Curator gathers artists to pay homage to Del Toro

While Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim" wreaks havoc across Burbank's movie screens, a few blocks away his more subdued works are being reimagined in a macabre mash-up of pop and fine art.

At Hyaena Gallery this month an art show ventures "Into the Labyrinth & Mind of Guillermo Del Toro," a celebration of Del Toro's visual style and an homage to the filmmaker who is inspiring Latin American artists to inject their own flair into American pop art.

This journey is both subtle and assaulting — at times a soft dreamscape in the works of Anita Mejia and Pakoto, or an impulsively jarring surge of color from Carlos Lerma. While Del Toro's influence is felt throughout, it's curator Joseph Muñoz of Burbank who takes on the uneasy task of tour guide through a Pandora's box of art-from-art.

"It's our duty as Latin American artists to support another artist who is opening doors for us," said Muñoz, a native of Ecuador who goes by the name Chogrin in his art.

Muñoz is also opening doors for his contemporaries, organizing gallery shows throughout Burbank and L.A. that highlight up-and-comers.

Located at Hyaena Gallery on Olive Avenue, the "labyrinth" features 10 artists from around the world, though most are from Latin America. Each artist had eight weeks to create new pieces that reflected the three Spanish-language films directed by Del Toro: "Cronos," "The Devil's Backbone" and "Pan's Labyrinth."

The movies' iconic images of horned satyrs and ghosts are at home with the classic movie monsters and preternatural oddities of Hyaena Gallery.

"The idea that these (movies) were not as well-known fit in nicely with what I like," said Hyaena Gallery owner Bill Shafer. "I don't pick shows for how well they'll do, I just do what I like."

With Del Toro as a frequent patron of the gallery, Shafer said he didn't want the director to feel like his work was being exploited. The honesty in the work is what sold Shafer — this is fan art of the highest possible degree, done in the best possible way.

While in town for the opening of "Pacific Rim" recently, Del Toro was able to see the work of "Into the Labyrinth." Muñoz met him at a "Pacific Rim" screening after.

"Guillermo personally telling he was moved by the art show is a huge highlight as a fan of his, but as an artist that wants to work with him as well," Muñoz said. "They are two different levels of awesomeness."

More awesome than the time the Ghostbusters picked him up from work for a gallery premiere.

In 2009, Muñoz was laid off from his job in Philadelphia designing Barbie packaging and coloring books when the design firm he worked for went bankrupt. In his new free time, he and a few friends put a show together of art influenced by the Joker. Since then, he's curated 34 galleries around the world, all centered around pop-culture themes with a fine-arts focus.

For a "Ghostbusters, Goonies and Gremlins" show at L.A.'s Gallery 1988, a replica Ecto-1 arrived outside Muñoz's day job at Cartoon Network to take him to the premiere. They were fashionably late because this is L.A., and you don't show up to an art opening without picking up one of the Ghostbusters first. In this case, it was Ernie Hudson.

Next year will be that film's 30th anniversary — "It's the 30th anniversary of a lot of things," Muñoz notes, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, myself...."

With his next decade, Muñoz hopes to create his own animated series, and push animation outside the realms of Japan and L.A.

"I'd like to start something the country (Ecuador) can be proud of," he said.


BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he's not watching giant robots fighting giant monsters, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.

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