At first glance, the products look like almost anything else you’d find at Target. The packaging is slick, radiant. But as you draw closer, you notice something is amiss. This one is just an empty, inflated plastic bag, and the cardboard tag describes it as “Muppet Screams.” This other is called “Divorce Poncho,” and it indeed does have a poncho inside, but the label encourages you to “Let the world know you’re single again!”
You’ve just found the Obvious Plant project, an artistic intervention from local creative Jeff Wysaski. For the past four years Wysaski has been leaving humorous signs and products around Los Angeles, documenting the results on the Obvious Plant Instagram account. You have to get lucky to find his weird, warm-feeling street art around town, but now you can see many of his creations in one place at Museum of Toys, a pop-up exhibition at Start Los Angeles.
“The show is a weird history,” he says, “a weirder, alternative history of childhood toys.”
One example is Hello Kitty Goes to Rehab, with a placard that starts with “In the 1980s Sanrio gave Hello Kitty a pill addiction for some reason” and then outlines other company missteps, including Hello Kitty Punches a Reporter.
The show is a new artistic installation rather than a collection of greatest hits, but given Wysaski’s past it’s sure to have some laughs. This is the man who posted a sign in Griffith Park with the rules “No littering,” “No hunting man for sport” and “BEWARE COYOTES: they have skateboards and can do sick tricks trust me they will steal your girlfriend I have seen it happen.” Another time he affixed an empty frame onto a mirror in the LACMA bathroom with a placard reading “Reflections of a Hideous Man” in museum font. He’s like our very own Banksy, if Banksy were actually as witty as Banksy thinks he is.
Wysaski creates the packaging for his weird toys at home with sticker paper and chipboard. Once the design is done, the products generally only take about 30 minutes to assemble. And then he heads to the racks of a Target or Best Buy near you.
“I don’t think anyone’s expecting somebody bringing something into a store,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for years now and no one has ever said anything to me.”
He did have an interesting encounter at Toys “R” Us when dropping off the Revengers, a parody of the Avengers that included Token Girl and Fedora Ron.
“As I was taking pictures of them, this guy walked up and said, ‘What are those? I didn’t know Toys “R” Us sold stuff like this.’ And then he picked one up and started walking away with it, and I was like, ‘Whoa, oh! Actually I need to take a picture of that. I made these.’”
The guy handed the toy back with a smile. Mission accomplished.
Obvious Plant’s Museum of Toys runs March 1-17 at Start Los Angeles, 2270 Venice Blvd., Harvard Heights. $10.
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