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When Bad Art is Good – The Museum of Bad Art

I didn’t like discussing bad art before I went to a museum in it’s honor on a recently visit to Boston.  Openly talking negatively about poor execution of an artist’s attempt at expressing a personal point of view.  I’d rather save my passion for the praising of beautiful, thought provoking exhibitions over criticizing of a failed effort.  

I bought my movie ticket, I believe it was for Rango, walked down the stairs and took a left at the bathrooms. In the basement of the Somerville Theatre, near Tufts University, a small portion of the nearly 600 works in the Museum of Bad Art collection are on display.

Oddly formed figures, twisted and contorted, seem to reinforce why some artists rise to the top, able to grace the white walled halls of established institutions.  But that isn’t the purpose of the museum.  When I walked in, my discomfort did not immediately subside; I was afraid that these examples were to be just laughable jokes and the expense of some unknown artist.  Slowly my understanding of the concept of bad art began evolving; that despite so many factors stacked up against the work, it has some quality that the viewer finds appealing.

AnonymousThe portrait is common here.  Two paintings of Elvis, one on a velvet backdrop greet you as you enter the space.  There are no mass-produced images here; someone took the time to paint their own homage of the reproduced artistic icon.  One with a tear trailing down his cheek.

 

Self-Portraiture is an early form of expression for budding artists.  It is also displayed outwardly with the Eyeball.  Eyes seem to be a way artists remind themselves to look inward and the museum has several on display the day I visit.

As you make your way from one work to the next, the surroundings allow the visitor to look closely at something that they may have dismissed without a second glance just outside.  But this is art is in the purest form, truly created for the sake of creation.  Fantastical places, works that draw obvious inspiration from artwork or images difficult to interpret, all make unintentional artistic statements about self, fantasy and what is of value in our culture.

 Most of these artists featured are anonymous because the art is found in alleys and curbside leaning against trashcans, or picked up at garage sales or thrift stores for the frame, then finding their way to the museum collection.  I believe destined for their true calling on the museum’s oddly curved walls.
With tongue in cheek, the curatorial staff selects and expounds on technical abilities, execution and intent of the works.  Whether a lack of technique or extraordinarily bold color choice, the art somehow results in something compelling. Which I believe is sincerely respected.

The museum acts as a contemporary piece of art, than a museum hosing it.  Making us examine what we hold dear about our understanding of art.  Making the subjectivity of art the point of the revolving exhibition.  Since 1994 the museum has been featuring Art created for art’s sake.  And no matter how hideous the work, that is a good thing.

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Sunday Best

[Vimeo 10680426]

Yesterday as I was walking in my north side Chicago neighborhood, where families were getting together for Easter celebrations.  The Mexican girls across the street, dressed in pastel gowns, were out in the front yard searching for hidden eggs while the boys of the Nigerian Minister next door were well groomed in suit and tie headed off to a day of church, all were in their Sunday Best to celebrate this important day in the Christian religion.

From the series "Sunday Best" by Andreas Fischer

This glimpse into their lives reminds me of an exhibition currently at the Hyde Park Art Center.  Artist Andreas Fischer, inspired by a collection of photographs from the Montana Historical Society of men and women from generations past, dressed up in their best for these portraits, tries to create context.  Not knowing anything other than what is captured in the image gave Fischer the license to come up with modern interpretations of the traditional portrait.  You know instantly upon viewing that these are from a photograph.  You also know from the color used and the image created that he made his own story.

The faces are warped, some say Zombie-like.  Fischer says this is intentional, wanting to exaggerate for the contemporary viewer that history and artifacts are left up to the interpretation of the viewer.  That most of the images captured now, seen through the eyes of a future observer will have their context.  Dear future viewer, treat us kindly.

The exhibition ‘Sunday Best’ is on display on the first floor of the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave) through April 18, 2010.

Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage Moves to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Long before Photoshop and Scrap-booking; long before Dadaists and Surrealists incorporated collage into their art, the women on England’s upper class created ornate works, mixing the new medium of photography with painting and drawing.

In the exhibition “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage”, currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elizabeth Siegel curates an exploration into a time and the inner circle of this privileged class.   These albums the aristocrats were creating tell fantastical stories, taking us into their world of literature or society.

“Butterfly” by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier

The technology of photography had been around for 20 years by the time these women began to create the works, but the advent of the “carte de visite” allowing for numerous images on one negative, increasing the amount of images available and they began to share the images with others.  The artists began to place those photographs in playful settings surrounded by hand painted worlds.

Lacking the heft of the surrealists’ messages, the works are a mixture of Terry Gilliams’ animation for Monty Python and the scrapbooking craze.   Heads on playing cards, as bubbles floating in the air and on the bodies of ducks, the images show a whimsy not often equated with Victorian Society.

The exhibition, “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” continues through May 9th at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Modernist Meditations

When you walk into the photo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, you are quickly drawing by the lushness of the images.  The vibrant colors and depth of focus gives an illusion of being in the space.  This is due to photographer John Allan Faier compiling several photographs into one image, giving you a richness of perspective.   But the true joy comes from the actual design of the spaces themselves.

John Allan Faier

In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Chicago built several mausoleums in a modernist style. The mausoleums are meant to be a place for family to come and commune with the dearly departed.  But with today’s sensibilities, they seem radical; harkening back to the more liberal time when the doctrine of Vatican II was embraced.

The vibrant colors of the carpet and vibrant patterns on the furniture make the rooms look like a hip hotel lounge rather than a cold crypt.  The images have no figures other than lone statues standing strong as if to provide support for mourners to lean on in their time of need.

The exhibition Queen of Heaven, named after one of the cemeteries he visited, allows to even the most atheistic among us to find beauty in religious settings; and a sense of peace in these simultaneously quiet and loud images.

(The exhibition can be seen on the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center through March 28, 2010)

Driving Cline Avenue Reprise

[Vimeo 8700217]

Emmett Kerrigan’s paintings are of the past.  Whether farm landscapes, painted wooden tops and cityscapes, Kerrigan’s work instantly draws you in by his sophisticated techniques, luscious colors and ability to look at the discarded in a new light.  This week new works by Emmett Kerrigan opened up at the Elmhurst Art Museum.

Whiting-2
Whiting-2 by Emmett Kerrigan

He is drawn to the objects off the interstate we passes by.  Whether the farms featured in his earlier work or his drives along Cline Ave, a thoroughfare that serves the steel mills and the communities that grew up around them, his images are familiar.  But his use of paint makes these structures fresh again.  His layers upon layers of color trick the eye and provide depth and light.

For those that drive through NW Indiana or take Chicago Skyway, the perspective is immediately recognizable. As the buildings on Cline Avenue represent a community once thriving are now dismissed as outdated and not relevant. So it’s fitting that Kerrigan uses a medium that to some in the contemporary art world is considered outdated and not relevant.

Truthful Enthusiasm interviewed Linda Warren, who represents Kerrigan, at his recent solo show at her gallery.  These works are now on display with other works by Kerrigan at the Elmhurst Art Museum Through March 21, 2010.

Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage

December 4, 2009 3 comments

Long before Photoshop and Scrap-booking; long before Dadaists and Surrealists incorporated collage into their art, the women on England’s upper class created ornate works, mixing the new medium of photography with painting and drawing.

In the exhibition “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage”, currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elizabeth Siegel curates an exploration into a time and the inner circle of this privileged class.   These albums the aristocrats were creating tell fantastical stories, taking us into their world of literature or society.

"Butterfly" by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier

The technology of photography had been around for 20 years by the time these women began to create the works, but the advent of the “carte de visite” allowing for numerous images on one negative, increasing the amount of images available and they began to share the images with others.  The artists began to place those photographs in playful settings surrounded by hand painted worlds.

Lacking the heft of the surrealists’ messages, the works are a mixture of Terry Gilliams’ animation for Monty Python and the scrapbooking craze.   Heads on playing cards, as bubbles floating in the air and on the bodies of ducks, the images show a whimsy not often equated with Victorian Society.

The exhibition, “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” continues through January 3rd at the Art Institute of Chicago before heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The exhibition, “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” continues through May 9th at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Women of Juarez

More than any other to date, the exhibition currently at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Rastros y Cronicas: Women of Juarez, typifies what we at TE are trying to showcase — Arts that explore relevant issues of the day.

Since 1994 with the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, American companies have crossed over to Mexico to build factories called maquiladoras and boarder cities like Juarez began to boom.  Young men and women moved from small towns in hopes of finding a better way of life.  In reality, what has happened is rapid, uncontrolled growth; shantytowns where women have been abducted and brutally murdered.  And few of these crimes have been solved.

This exhibition looks at the politics of NAFTA for sure, as in Cecillia Alvarez’s piece When the Opportunist is King Women are a Commodity where the rape and pillaging of poor women and resources benefit men in suits with blinders on, marching through the factory reaping the rewards.

Your Last Doll

Your Last Doll by Ester Hernandez

Marked, hija de Juárez, from artist Eva Soliz explores that natural reaction to something too difficult to comprehend and that is to just look away.  In here entry, Soliz has two chess-like figures, one of a queen headed down a path, her face is marked with a pink cross, the symbol used by the families of the abducted women.  In the foreground, a smaller male figure, a pawn, looks away and reinforce the idea of a community not making an effort to acknowledge these crimes.

But the majority of the works look at the loss of these mothers, daughters and sisters.  Numerous pieces look at the innocence of the ‘muejeres’, as young as six years old, who have been lost. Ester Hernandez’s installation Your Last Doll has an actual poster of one of the victims enlarged.

The words “Se Busca” or “Searching For” and a photo of the 14 year old before the abduction.  In the foreground a Plexiglas case holds a Quinceanera doll, representing the last doll a girl is to receive before she becomes a woman, bringing home that many of these victims are young girls.

Recently Juarez has been in the news for its drug cartels and drug related violence.  But these murders are still happening and will continue until more people turn and face this problem head on.

You can see these works as part of the exhibition Rastros y Cromcas: Women of Juarez, at the National Museum of Mexican Art now extended through July 4, 2010.