A lot of DAM fun with “It’s Like Toys in Here”

A trio of works by Shaina Kasztelan.

Saturday, February 14th marks the closing of “It’s Like Toys in Here” at the Detroit Artists Market, giving you just one last chance to fall in love with this playful show curated by Andrew Thompson, featuring three generations of Detroit artists working in the show’s eponymous medium.

Mary Fortuna's world of light and shadows.

Mary Fortuna’s world of light and shadows.

Of the old school, the mythic creations of Mary Fortuna, whose displayed works include pieces from her 2013 solo show, “She Towers Above,” as well as a collection of new works dealing with the realm of shadow puppetry. A swarm of cut-paper figures inhabit a small gallery off the main room, projecting fractals of shadows on the walls. In the main gallery space, a tiny puppet collection is mounted to an old record player, prepared at any moment, it seems, to send its inhabitants into a state of shadow-play.

Detail from Fortuna's roundabout, which seems to invoke Indonesian shadow puppetry.

Detail from Fortuna’s roundabout, which seems to invoke Indonesian shadow puppetry.

Interactivity is the watchword of the whole show, particularly the work of mid-generation participant Andy Malone, whose enchanting wooden clockworks stole the show at Popps Packing’s recent “Chess Show.” For “It’s Like Toys…” his works provided opportunities to play games, create “exquisite corpse” drawings, scroll through a Rolodex-turned-flipbook, and reroute the trajectory of wooden balls on a motion-triggered table. But perhaps Malone’s most affecting work is a two-sided music box, which plays melodies that correspond with punch-card holes representing fallen houses in his neighborhood.

Andy Malone's exquisite corpse machine gets your gears turning.

Andy Malone’s exquisite corpse machine gets your gears turning.

Strange games by Andy Malone.

What kind of game is Andy Malone playing?

It's a sad song that plays, as hand-drawn views of Malone's neighborhood turn in time.

It’s a sad song that plays with rotating, hand-drawn views of Malone’s neighborhood.

In the work of Shaina Kasztelan and the late Matthew Blake, the idea is that if some toys are good, then more toys are better. While Kasztelan’s paintings and installations are explosions in every color of the rainbow, Blake’s work is limited to monochromatic menageries crammed between severe shelving planes. In both cases, the longer you look, the more details emerge, and the more unsettling the overall affect.

How deep into Matthew Blake's world are you willing to go?

How deep into Matthew Blake’s world are you willing to go?

All seems cheery on the surface of Kaztelan's works, but what lurks beneath?

All seems cheery on the surface of Kaztelan’s works, but what lurks beneath?

In fact, the longer you spend with “It’s Like Toys in Here,” the darker this light-hearted show seems to get. There is the literal dark side cast by Fortuna’s whimsical figures; the broken tune produced by Malone’s broken neighborhoods; the way Kasztelan’s cheery façade seems to crack at the edges, like a sorority girl on the verge of an arson spree; creations by Blake that seem to take on Inferno-like qualities, with whole societies of our best-loved childhood friends sunk into bondage. In the end, this show suggests that maybe our inner children had a bit of a rough upbringing.

But perhaps I’m overthinking it. Massive kudos are due to Thompson, Fortuna, Malone, Blake and Kasztelan for a great deal of eye candy, not to mention food for thought. For a good time, get down to DAM before they take their toys and go home.

Detroit Artists Market: 4719 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8540;