Kirby Kerr darts from shelf to shelf pointing out zombies, eye-patched monkeys and cigarette smoking bunnies with infectious zeal. He'll gleefully tell you how he loves the smell of vinyl. That might seem strange anywhere but Rotofugi, where he and wife Whitney indulge their obsession with designer toys. Underground artists collaborate with toy designers worldwide to produce the strange array of plush, plastic and vinyl curios on display. These limited edition collectibles (some hardcore aficionados call them sculptures) can run the gamut from cute and quirky to downright disturbing.
Most of the toys are rotocasted, a process that produces hollow figures cheaper than traditional G.I. Joe injection molding. Cult comic characters like Enid from "Ghost World" ($25) and Jamie Hewlett's Gorillaz crew ($40 each) sit beside aberrations like Ron English's three-eyed Rabbbit ($18). Rock poster kingpin Frank Kozik contributes the ominous Knuckle Bear Qee ($135), a grimacing thing with clenched fists that's tricked out in digital camo skulls. Popular plush items include Shawnimals by local artist Shawn Smith as well as hand-sewn creatures by 11-year-old newcomer Luisa Castellanos. Her cuddly monsters tote miniature doubles tucked into tiny kangaroo pouches, inspired, her mother says, by dreams.
The clean, minimalist space also doubles as a gallery. In the past, the Kerrs have hosted shows featuring plush collections, hand-painted skateboard decks and work by photographer Gina Garan, whose snapshots celebrate the recently resurrected line of Blythe dolls. (The dolls' outsized heads and dead eyes spooked kids in the seventies, dooming them to obscurity until Garan came along). Whatever the artistic intent, the Kerrs insist you can play with their toys, too. That said, if your kid wants a Tickle Me Elmo, better haul it over to Toys R Us. But if your twisted inner child needs a blood-spattered bear with two-inch claws, you've definitely come to the right place.
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Foreman