Everything Must Go: The Toys of Randy Regier
September 2, 2003 – January 4, 2004
The Beach Museum of Art organized “Everything Must Go: The Toys of Randy Regier,” an installation was scheduled to be on view in the Wefald Gallery from 2 September 2003 to 4 January 2004. Regier creates fictive toys that expose powerful, and often unpleasant, truths about our society and its culture. Regier’s working method involves both the manipulation and transformation of found materials and the fabrication of objects completely from scratch.
Characterized by an extraordinarily high degree of craftsmanship and design, Regier’s constructions are so convincing that their status as works of art begs challenge. At first glance, it appears that Regier is simply appropriating actual old toys and inserting them into a new and critical context. However, careful scrutiny and consideration of the work’s content and details reveal that things are not quite right. Whitey Cracker, a work Regier has described as “a belated response to the multitude of exploitative toys made in the late 19th and early 20th century and now avidly collected,” is one such example. Constructed of cast iron, wood, and cardboard, Whitey Cracker upends the negative racial stereotypes promoted by some antique toys. Regier accomplishes this through his creation and use of a bucktoothed, misshapen, simpleminded, rural Caucasian figure in place of an African American figure. The only clue suggesting the toy’s subversive intent is the fine print on the box’s label identifying Turnabout Toys as the manufacturer of Whitey Cracker.
Many of Regier’s works, such as Karv-Kraft, address the misrepresentation of products marketed for children and the way in which toys often fail to deliver on the promises offered by their slick and alluring packaging, leaving instead a wake of disappointment, confusion, and anger. Karv-Kraft, a model car kit manufactured by Gypco, comes in a box bearing an image of the sleek and shiny finished product. Contained within the box are the components necessary for building the car—a cast aluminum, brick-like block out of which the child must sculpt the car using the provided “sculptor’s hammer and forming chisel” and various other cast aluminum parts. These additional parts, including the “sculptor’s hammer and forming chisel,” were cast as a single piece and must be separated like components in a plastic model kit. Of course, separating the individual parts and sculpting the car from a solid block of cast aluminum is an absurd and likely impossible task.
The essential concept of “Everything Must Go” revolves around the transformation of the museum’s Wefald Gallery into a self-contained toy store, fully stocked with products of Regier’s creation. The store will also contain most of the elements one would expect to find in a small, independently operated toy store in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Exposing some of the more unsavory values and methods at work in American consumer culture, Regier’s installation promised to be an enlightening and powerful critique.