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October 7, 2016

Published by The Bee Publishing Company, Newtown, Connecticut

INDEXES ON
PAGES 36 & 37

Guillermo Del Toro


AT H O M E W I T H M O N S T E R S

By James Balestrieri

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. The essence of


Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters, the strange and wonderful exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of
Art (LACMA) through November 27, is
this: Guillermo del Toro, born in 1964, is a
major writer and director whose films
include Cronos (1993), The Devils Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pans Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013) and Crimson Peak (2015). He is a master who creates
worlds that embrace horror, science fiction,
fantasy and fairy tales. He insists that, as
fantastic as they are, these worlds are
located and grounded beside, beneath and
in the real world, our world a world, he
might argue, that we merely imagine as
real. The membrane separating these
worlds is thin, porous and portal-ridden.
The worlds are distorted reflections of one
another. This distortion becomes the occasion for his ideas and art.
Jointly organized by LACMA with the
Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Art
Gallery of Ontario, this first retrospective
of the filmmakers work arrays sculpture,
paintings, prints, photography, costumes,
ancient artifacts, books, maquettes and
film to create a complex portrait of a creative genius. Roughly 60 of the 500 objects
on view are from LACMAs collection. More
belong to the artist.
An important work of his imagination is
his suburban Los Angeles house, a place
where he is entirely at home hence the
exhibition title a place filled with his
own creations and the inspirations for
( continued on page 12C )

Gallery view featuring Spectral


Motions Angel of Death from Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008). 2008
Universal Studios, photo Museum
Associates/ LACMA, by Josh White/
JWPictures.com.

LOS ANGELES
COUNTY
MUSEUM
OF ART
Guillermo del Toro at work on his current notebook in the Comic Book Library
at Bleak House. Photo courtesy Insight
Editions.

12C Antiques and The Arts Weekly October 7, 2016

Guillermo Del Toro


AT H O M E W I T H M O N S T E R S

( continued from page 1C )

Guillermo del Toros Bleak House. Photo Josh White/ JWPictures.com.

Guillermo del Toros Bleak House. Photo Josh White/ JWPictures.com.

Gallery view, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. Photo Museum Associates/ LACMA, by
Josh White/ JWPictures.com.

those creations, images of nightmarish elsewheres and


elsewhens that he has amassed and commissioned.
The LACMA show recreates some of the rooms and spaces in del Toros home, Bleak House (thank you, Charles
Dickens), and asks some important questions about the
shimmering immanence of certain things in our lives;
about the power they have and hold for us and over us;
about the nature of collecting and the feeling that the
things we collect actually collect us; about the window into
the collectors life and soul that the private collection, the
cabinet of curiosities in all its eclecticism, opens, and how
that differs from the encyclopedic motivation of the museum, which, of necessity, sacrifices that deep connection for
scholarly, political and civic goals.
Del Toro lives with muses like H.P. Lovecraft, whose lifesized statue stands in one of the artists rooms, opposite a
seated life-sized Edgar Allan Poe. Poe and Lovecraft are
arguably the twin dark princes of horror, weird and cosmic
fiction. They are wellsprings for del Toros art. Though they
deal and dwell in some of the same primordial anxieties,
there are significant differences between del Toro and his
forebears. Lovecraft, for example, wrote in his essential
1927 essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest
and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
Later in the essay, he wrote, A certain atmosphere of
breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown
forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed
with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain
a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed
laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the
assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.
Lovecraft was afraid of the creatures of his imagination
and the otherness in the world that gave rise to those creatures. Though Lovecraft had shed the worst of his phobias
before his early death, characters in his beautifully rendered fictions still only barely manage to stave off what he
saw as an inevitable doom.
By contrast, Guillermo del Toros career (career is a weak
word for it; better to speak of life and mission) is to make
the invisible visible, to bring the outsider inside, to make
monsters not so that we may measure ourselves against
them and find them hideous, malevolent and amoral, but
so that we might see how human they are and know that
what we find wanting in them is nothing more than a pale,
spectral reflection of the hypocrisies that shoot through the
conventions of our upright, moral lives.
According to Britt Salvesen, curator and department
head of LACMAs Wallis Annenberg photography department and its prints and drawings department, del Toro
sees himself as an outsider and a champion of difference.
Del Toro, says Salvesen, suggests that the most frightening, dangerous people are those who are profoundly certain
or profoundly ignorant. In his films, he creates worlds
that exist between those extremes of certainty and ignorance: complex worlds where outsiders find community,
where ambiguity and loss are acknowledged, and where
hierarchies of high and low culture are ignored. Celebrating diversity, difference, curiosity and historical self-awareness, he inspires viewers to be open to the world in all its

Gallery view featuring Mike Hills Unrequited


(2012). Mike Hill, photo Museum Associates/
LACMA, by Josh White/ JWPictures.com.

October 7, 2016 Antiques and The Arts Weekly 13C

Portrait of Guillermo del Toro at Bleak House. Photo Josh White/ JWPictures.com.
beauty and brutality.
Del Toros favorite monster is Frankensteins Creature,
as evidenced by the enormous head in Bleak House, sized
to match the size and height of the image as it would have
appeared on screen in the classic 1931 film that starred
Boris Karloff as the Creature. Frankenstein, to del Toro,
sums up all of human creation including filmmaking.
The Creature, like all works of art, is a patchwork of pieces constructed according to an ideal that both falls short
and, as it comes to life, exceeds its creators intentions. Elsewhere in his home, del Toro has a tableau of Karloff and his
makeup artist, transforming the actors head. The incongruity of the Frankenstein head atop Karloffs body adds
yet another layer of creative construction to what began as
a ghost story that came to Mary Shelley in a dream in 1814.
Del Toro, who began his career as a makeup artist, has a
fascination with movie magic, though he avoids computergenerated images when he can, preferring hands-on,
dream-factory effects, like those of stop-motion master Ray
Harryhausen. In life-size likeness, Harryhausen sits in a
corner of del Toros house, tickled joyously by tiny, fairy versions of his famous skeletal warriors, sown from dragons
teeth, that rise to fight the Greek heroes in the classic 1963
film, Jason and the Argonauts.
What is unique about the collection of objects in del Toros
home, and about his collecting impulse, is that they celebrate who he is, not who he wishes he were. His house,
strange as it may seem to others, is an emblem of his contentment, resembling a giant galvanic conductor or Tesla
coil that channels his creative force. Guillermo del Toro
dwells in a cabinet of curiosities that is, in fact, an alchemical battery.
By contrast, the impulse to collect oftentimes seems to
arise out of the collectors perception of an absence, an affinity with a lost, unrecoverable past sometimes the collectors own past, sometimes a very distant era. The objects
from that past, whether they are landscape watercolors,
antique fishing lures, Colonial pewter, jadeite netsuke or
anything else, make a connection, throw a bridge from now
to then, from here to there, papering over the gulf. Owning
a piece of the past is a delicious impossibility, but those of
us who love art and antiques embrace the paradox unconditionally.
When asked about the difficulties del Toro has faced in
his drive to bring Lovecrafts finest novella, At the Mountains of Madness, to the big screen, and the challenges of
recreating Lovecrafts cosmic worlds and inhabitants,
which are Cyclopean, non-Euclidean, immense and beyond
description, Salvesen replied, Del Toro grew up absorbing
literature, medical encyclopedias and art-historical texts,
alongside comic books and horror movies. His approach to
creature design and world building is correspondingly
wide-ranging. He is fascinated with the literature of magic
and occultism the persistent human quest for alternative realities, forbidden knowledge, transformation and
immorality. His knowledge of these traditions fuels his con-

Film Still from Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2008. Universal Studios
Entertainment

cepts of space and time, which he often depicts in terms of


multiple realms with permeable boundaries.
Alternative realities, immortality, multiple realms, permeable boundaries this is the lifeblood of every serious
collector. In Cronos, del Toro explores the world of antiques
when an old dealer finds a golden scarab created by an
alchemist. The scarab restores the old man to health but
also transforms him into a vampire. To covet and be consumed by the things we love does not generally make us
want to drink blood. As with all loves, it can be a source of
great happiness and joy, even when we pine for one last
missing piece.
The catalog to the exhibition will surely keep you up at
night. Published by Insight Editions, it is edited by Salvesen, Jim Shedden and Matthew Welch and contains contributions by del Toro, Keith McDonald, Roger Clark and Paul
Koudounaris.
Following its close at LACMA, Guillermo del Toro travels to the Minneapolis Institute of Art from February 26 to
May 21, and to the Art Gallery of Toronto from September
30, 2017, to January 7, 2018.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is at 5905
Wilshire Boulevard. For information, www.lacma.org or
323-857-6000.
Jim Balestrieri is director of J.N. Bartfield Galleries in
New York City. A playwright and author, he writes frequently about the arts.

Page from Notebook 2 by Guillermo del Toro.


Leather-bound notebook, ink on paper, 8 by 10 by
1 inches. Collection of Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro. Photo courtesy Insight Editions.

Page from Notebook 3 by Guillermo del Toro.


Leather-bound notebook, ink on paper, 8 by 10 by
1 inches. Collection of Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro. Photo courtesy Insight Editions.

LOS ANGELES
COUNTY
MUSEUM OF ART

Page from Notebook 2 by Guillermo del Toro.


Leather-bound notebook, ink on paper, 8 by 10 by
1 inches. Collection of Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro. Photo courtesy Insight Editions.

Gallery view featuring DDT Efectos Especialess


Santi from the Devils Backbone (2001). Photo
Museum Associates/ LACMA, by Josh White/
JWPictures.com.
Gallery view featuring Mike Hills Ray Harryhausen (2014) and Daniel Hornes Ray Harryhausen,
Master of Fantasy (2016). Mike Hill, Daniel
Horne, photo Museum Associates/ LACMA, by
Josh White/ JWPictures.com.

Gallery view featuring Mike Hills Creation, Boris Karloff


as Frankensteins Monster and Jack Pierce (2009) and
Unrequited (2012) and Basil Gogos Frankensteins Monster. Mike Hill, Basil Gogos, photo Museum Associates/
LACMA, by Josh White/ JWPictures.com.