“Paradise/Gravedigger”

Rene Cruz does something with his action figures that would make most collectors cringe: He takes them out of the box and plays with them. For his show “Paradise/Gravedigger,” the artist — gasp — defaced his own collection, removing the heads from the figures, replacing them with colorful, diamond-shaped heads and painting their bodies. Cruz misses the days when action figures were played with instead of kept inside boxes. “It’s so stupid — it’s such a waste. It’s like renting a movie and not watching it,” he says. And really, what’s an action figure that isn’t missing his gun or arm? “He isn’t in battle,” Cruz laughs. “He’s pushing pencils.”

Cruz’s show features an installation populated by painted and re-headed figures (for sale individually) who make up what he calls the Paradise Army; these are the good guys, and they’re fighting bad guy Gravedigger, a huge, four-armed monster made of red hoodies, rising out of the ground. The exhibit also includes drawings and paintings of other battles between the same foes.

Cruz admits the show was inspired by his childhood, when he spent hours in the backyard with mismatched action figures creating his own battle scenes. “It was like a robot riding a dragon fighting a military guy in a tank with a two-headed lion,” he says. “You know, it was just this weird, crazy story, and I love that about it.”

Cruz says the show is more about that weirdness than about war or current events. “I never even connected the two,” he says. “The first thing I did when I was a kid if I had two [action figures] in my hand was just automatically fight. They’re not going to go and talk it out — it’s just like combat.” Today’s opening reception is from 7 to 9 p.m. Regular viewing hours are noon to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Through August 29. Domy, 1709 West-heimer. For information, call 713-523-3669 or visit www.domystore.com. Free.
July 11-Aug. 29, 2008

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Dusti Rhodes
Contact: Dusti Rhodes