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Arts & Culture

Japanese Monsters, El Santo, And Ephemeral Art

Aaron Summers' Godzilla painting for the Japanese Monster show presented by Art Kami at Mike Hess Brewing.
Beth Accomando
Aaron Summers' Godzilla painting for the Japanese Monster show presented by Art Kami at Mike Hess Brewing.

Japanese monster art show running at Mike Hess Brewing through July 27

Japanese Monsters, El Santo, And Ephemeral Art

Wednesday night an art show called Japanese Monster: A Group Art Exhibition opened at Mike Hess Brewing. Twenty-three San Diego artists were displaying their work but one artist was not.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Japanese Monster art show. Being a fan of Godzilla I was excited to see a show of fan art inspired by Godzilla and an assortment of other Japanese monsters. But as I was preparing to go down and cover the show, William Nericcio, an artist I am friends with on Facebook, sent out a group message that he would no longer be attending the show because his piece, "El Santo Vs. Godzilla,” had been rejected.

I asked if I could interview him and he offered to let me come with him when he went down to Mike Hess Brewing to pick up his art. So on Wednesday afternoon, I met up with Nericcio in North Park.

He told me, “I’m here in North Park and I’m about to go into Hess Brewery. I was about to debut today a piece of my art called ‘El Santo Vs. Godzilla’ for a Japanese Monster show but at 6 this morning I got an email saying, ‘Hey your piece isn’t in sync with the theme of the show,' which I just couldn’t understand.”

To be fair, curator Kami Farokhi acknowledged in a text message to the artist that Nericcio's piece “is a form of art and it does fit the theme.” But as Farokhi said when I spoke with her on opening night, “I couldn’t use his piece because there was no means for me to install it on the wall without me damaging the piece of art work.”

Nericcio explained to me that with his art – an oversized piece of black butcher paper with taped on Xeroxed images of Mexican wrestler El Santo and Japan’s Godzilla squaring off — you can just tape it to the wall.

“It is what it is, it’s my medium, I work with ephemeral culture, newspapers, comic books, all these things, and tape. I don’t even know if this is art,” Nerricio said with a smile. “I’m just trying to have fun, just trying to have some fun with Godzilla, with Mexico, with Japan, and mostly the memory of me growing up in a border town in Laredo, Texas movie house, that’s what I remember. Imagine ‘Cinema Paradiso’ meets El Santo and the big guy in the rubber suit. That was my life for me, that was my reality on the border and most importantly with the border.”

Meanwhile, inside Mike Hess Brewing more than 20 works representing a diversity of bold styles were on display, including one by Aaron Summers.

Summers’ piece is a series of canvases forming one giant black, white, and red image of Godzilla stomping Tokyo.

“This piece that’s up here is acrylic on canvas and enamel,” Summers explained. “I use the enamel to really emphasize the splatter of destruction and really give it, the painting, some kind of movement, that’s what I like to capture in all of my paintings is movement.”

Artist Optimus Volts, whose business card looks like a Mexican wrestler’s trading card, said “The Transformers” were his first pop culture obsession but Godzilla was also up there.

“For this show, I’ve created Mothra, he’s a creature that fights Godzilla in the old school movies and what I did was I used my style, I kind of recycle from the wood to the cans that I use, I break up spray cans and make ‘em look sharp, spikey, make it look like aggressive,” Optimus Volts explained.

Optimus Volts' three-dimensional Mothra made from recycled materials and broken spray paint cans.
Beth Accomando
Optimus Volts' three-dimensional Mothra made from recycled materials and broken spray paint cans.

His Mothra is indeed a spiky creation and you can only see the spray cans if you take a moment to investigate the piece up close.

All the artwork is for sale and is very tempting.

Twenty-three artists were lucky enough to be included in Japanese Monster: A Group Art Exhibition. Nericcio's “El Santo Vs. Godzilla” may not have been on display inside Mike Hess Brewing last night but it got an impromptu showing by the dumpster in the alley behind the brewery as a couple of men entering the brewery walked by. One man exclaimed, “Where did you get the poster dude? That’s what I’m talking about. Awesome.”

Nericcio glowed as he replied, “I made it.”

Check out the video of the art exhibit.

Japanese Monster: A Group Art Exhibition

And then check out Nericcio's "El Santo Vs.Godzilla."

William Nericcio's 'El Santo Vs. Godzilla'