The most recent art toy collection from Task One, AKA Daniel Rowley, is the result of a lot of late nights. While he works, the graffiti and custom toy artist watches copious amounts of his favorite TV shows, so it was only a matter of time before inspiration caught up with the art. With "As Seen On TV," which opens tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Plastic Chapel, Rowley turned DIY wooden character kits into the stars of Deadwood, Breaking Bad, The Wire and other smallscreen classics -- at a rate of about thirty hours for each piece.
Rowley grew up in New Jersey, where he lived with a part-time art teacher mother and spent school nights tagging on the streets. His days were dedicated to crafting his own identity as Task One and embellishing upon the designs of his favorite street artists, Dame and Totem. After three years of art college and a brief stint in corporate New York, Rowley moved to San Francisco to work for STRANGEco's toy team. But when it went out of business in September, he relocated to Denver.
And since Rowley admits to being "kind of a pothead," he sells each toy for $420. (Weeds' Nancy Botwin, who is present in the show, would approve.)
Although he became entranced by high-art toys during his early trips to graffiti shops, Rowley's career creating them launched only five years ago when he hosted a toy show at a gallery in Oakland. Since then, he's received at least one e-mail a month asking him to participate in a new collection -- and the same amount of blank pieces shipped to him in the mail.
His stint at Plastic Chapel, however will be both his first solo show and his first completely DIY collection. With much of his work, Rowley works from pre-created pieces that arrive in his inbox from companies such as Blammo, 3DRetro, Toy2R and creators such as Nathan Hamill. Most recently, for example, Hamill mailed a piece called "Bellicose Bunny," a space rabbit flying on a carrot rocket, that Rowley painted and reinterpreted.
"I don't like to just paint a toy, especially coming from the industry with an understanding of how much time it took to create that toy in the first place," Rowley says. "Painting someone else's design is not fulfilling. Every other day, there are new toy artists and kids I've never heard of before coming out of the woodwork, so originality is more important than ever."
As Task One, Rowley's style is urban and expressive, blending the influence of his graffiti art with the detail required to complete pieces not much taller than his hand. Some of his most popular pieces have been those that are based on real life: For Art Basel a few years ago, Rowley recreated characters from The Big Lebowski, while a piece dedicated to comic actor Andy Kaufman in Los Angeles' Gallery1988 sold directly to Kaufman's estate. For this weekend's show, Roley began his first piece in March and gave himself one week to complete each of the between 18 and twenty toys that will be in the show, "depending on how much time I have tonight," he jokes. With a DIY wooden piece or a pre-made designer piece, Rowley works with LED lights, Magic Sculpt putty, acrylic paints, plexiglass and resin to build his own designs and attempt to controvert the stigma against toys interpreted as art.
"Once you use the word toy, they don't take you seriously, and they don't want to pay the same amount they would for another piece they can more easily see as art," Rowley says. "That needs to stop."
Click through for additional photos.
"As Seen On TV" opens tomorrow with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. at Plastic Chapel.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.