Derrick Hodgson at Magic Pony Gallery (694 Queen West) to Tuesday (November 15). 416-861-1684. Rating: NNNN
The backroom gallery of Magic Pony , a Queen West boutique for eclectic toys and design doodads, is showing the latest paintings of Derrick Hodgson , a Toronto native whose distinctive blend of graffiti, anime and contemporary design has garnered an international following. Also an innovator in toy design, he was recently hired by Sony Creative to make a line of figurines that were distributed in vending machines in Japan. At first glance, you can see this is a man who's obsessed with doodling. Hodgson covers pastel backgrounds with mashups of vacant-eyed and gape-mouthed mutants. Overlaid, cloned or repeated figures float in space, some of which appear to be interacting. Deceptively bland on first viewing, they divulge their own distinct and quirky traits under scrutiny.
Each of his characters comes equipped with a name, it turns out. There are Clone Farmers, Bush Babies, Skull Ghouls and Space Apes, Poppers and Chammy Ghouls and Mogos and Scratch Zombies. Some are fully developed humanoids complete in every detail; others remain half-formed, like urgent scrawls in a bathroom stall. The overall effect is hyper-urban a visual field that is stylized, chaotic and intensely funky.
Hodgson hijacks the smooth aesthetic of mass-produced toys and anime for his own grittier ends, creating mutant hybrids with presence. Like the totemic scrawls of New York's Neck Face, Hodgson's figures are little visual gems you might pass on a city wall and smirk at.
Massed together, however, they create a claustrophobic and very familiar urban landscape. He's not depicting some druggy cartoon netherworld, but the downtown crowd of any given city.