AUSTIN, TX—Guzu Gallery is jam-packed with art. Shelves upon shelves heaving under the weight of graphic novels share space with the latest capsule toys imported from Japan. On a display, customizable “Munny” vinyl toys cry out for detailing and a monstrous army of Ugly Dolls await would-be owners hoping to round out their collections. But on Friday, Guzu’s regular cliental of designer toy aficionados had to make room for fans of the self-proclaimed “action comic punk” band Peelander-Z.
More than 200 fans packed into Guzu gallery to see the art work of Kengo Hioki, better known as Peelander-Z’s over-the-top frontman Peelander Yellow. What kind of art work does an action comic punk band leader create? Linocuts: hand-carved stamps rolled with ink and pressed onto paper to make prints.
Peelander-Z shows are completely outlandish and almost always include the crowd in their onstage antics. During a Peelander performance staple called “Mad Tiger,” Hioki dons a tiger mask and blows a whistle like an irate soccer official as he drags a limbo rope across the audience. Then he hurls Peelander Red (wearing a costume that’s half guitar and half squid) into bowling pins during an event called “Human Bowling.” Hioki even broke his foot after jumping from a two-story building during a performance in New Mexico.
Hioki brings the same sort of bottled chaos to his work, depicting three-color, childlike caricatures of animals and objects with a practiced execution that is immediately apparent. A print of a giraffe is more than it appears with smiling faces instead of spots leading the way up its neck. One piece called “Condom” superimposes the likeness of a naked woman on top of the outline of a penis.
“I do myself. Dig myself and print like a stamp,” Hikoi said between signing autographs and promising to wrestle fans lucha libre style after the Guzu Gallery opening on Friday. I asked how long they take to do. “Depends. One day and then wait one day. Two days and then wait one day. Three days and then wait one day. It’s about three days,” he said then rushed off to stick his finger in his nose and pose with a nearby fan for what will surely be the most epic Facebook photo ever.
The opening at Guzu Gallery promised an acoustic set from Kengo Hioki, but like all things Peelander, what we got was much more than anyone could have anticipated. Hioki addressed the crowd standing atop a chair at the back of the gallery and started making up a song about how he was nervous and couldn’t play guitar all that well. He even tried to pass off (sometimes successfully) his guitar-playing duties to members of the crowd so he could dance with them. He lead the crowd through three Peelander classics, “Tacos,” “So Many Mike” (a song making fun of the fact that so many Americans seemed to be named Mike) and “Ninja High School.” In the middle of “Ninja High School’s” chorus (which goes: “Ninja high school! Ninja high school! Yeah! Our school!”) Hioki stopped and said, “‘Our’ (pronounced awa) in Japanese means ‘bubble,’ so that’s very funny.”
Check out the entire performance on Guzu Gallery’s YouTube channel.
Getting a word in with Guzu Gallery (and Austin Books next door) Store Manager Brandon Zuern was not easy during the opening. In a few moments between selling screen prints and smiling like a maniac along with the rest of the fans, Zuern cryptically mentioned that he spoke with “a local institution that is involved with a fantastic event about doing an art show with them.” My guess: Guzu’s teaming up with Alamo Drafthouse for a movie poster show.
Kengo Hioki’s art work will remain on display a Guzu Gallery through August 13. Most prints are $200 but there’s also a screen print of art Hioki created for Peelander-Z’s most recent album, Space Vacation, for $30.
Peelander-Z is currently on tour. Check ‘em out.