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The Most Memorable Monsters at Guillermo del Toro’s LACMA Exhibit

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then Guillermo del Toro’s new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is sure to please viewers with an eye for the macabre. Titled “Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters,” the show runs from August 1 until November 27, and will travel to co-organizing museums in Minneapolis and Ontario next year. Containing almost 600 eerie objects from the filmmaker’s private collection — including sculptures, paintings, costumes and books — the exhibition reflects his lifelong obsession with monsters.  

“You can see my movies over and over again, and you will see that I adore monsters. I absolutely love them,” del Toro said at Saturday’s preview, adding “I think humans are pretty repulsive!”

Though he doesn’t consider himself a horror filmmaker these days, del Toro’s LACMA exhibit is filled with the type of ghoulish artifacts most often associated with a Fangoria convention. Here are a few of the monstrous sights on display.

1) The Thing at the Door

Upon entering the gallery, visitors come face-to-skull with a towering replica of the Angel of Death from “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.” The living personification of Hellboy’s eventual demise, this fearsomely feathered figure is as ghastly as it is gorgeous. Though the creature’s skeletal grin and nightmarish wingspan perfectly capture what del Toro refers to as “the graveyard poetry of horror,” he suggests it pales in comparison to our real-life boogeymen.

 “The real monsters in our lives are in fancy tailored suits,” he said. “There’s nothing more scary than people that are profoundly ignorant and profoundly certain. They always go together.”

2) An Army of Frankensteins

Del Toro describes Boris Karloff’s iconic interpretation of Frankenstein’s monster as a “beautiful, innocent creature in a state of grace,” which helps to explain why images and replicas of Mary Shelley’s immortal monster are scattered throughout the show. From an enormous square head ominously overlooking the gallery, to a life-size sculpture of makeup artist Jack Pierce applying prosthetics to Karloff himself, the Frankenstein Monster is the patron saint of the entire exhibition.

3) One of Us! One of Us!

The exhibition is organized into eight thematic sections, the most compelling of which is titled “Freaks and Monsters.” Included among the fascinating photos and artifacts are life-size sculptures of the tragically disfigured performers who appeared in director Tod Browning’s 1932 horror classic “Freaks.” Recalling the carnival-like atmosphere of that disturbing masterpiece, viewers to the exhibit will encounter artist Thomas Kuebler’s hyper-realistic tributes to the cast, including Johnny Eck (the half boy), Schlitzie (the pinhead) and Harry Earles (the razor wielding dwarf).

4) Crimson Labyrinth

Fans of the Oscar-winning fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth” and gothic nightmare “Crimson Peak” are in for a special treat, since the exhibit features full-size replicas of those films’ most visually striking monsters. The cloven-hoofed Faun and the grotesque Pale Man look astonishingly lifelike with their intricately detailed bodies, while a black-clad ghost from del Toro’s most recent film is positively haunting as it gazes silently at visitors who wander the gallery.

5) The Men Who Made Monsters

Amid the frightening heirlooms on display are loving tributes to the writers, artists and filmmakers whose work continues to inspire de Toro. Vividly realistic sculptures of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Harryhausen and makeup genius Dick Smith share the stage with some of their greatest creations, while gruesome illustrations from acclaimed horror artists like Richard Corben, Basil Gogos and Bernie Wrightson decorate the walls. In recognition of the legendary Forrest Ackerman, of one of del Toro’s genre heroes, the exhibit includes a sampling of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines, a publication which every monster fan of a certain age — including Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and Stephen King — grew up reading.

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