Published: December 27, 2011
This January, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, the American Folk Art Museum will present “Jubilation / Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined.”
The exhibition, conceived and organized by the museum’s senior curator, Stacy C. Hollander, will open on January 17 and run through September 2.
Hollander, who has been with the museum since 1986 and been instrumental in shaping its collection, has selected for display nearly 100 paintings, drawings, weathervanes, quilts, collages and sculpture representing the full sweep of traditional folk art and creative expressions by self-taught artists. The groupings of these disparate works of art trace evocative, visual relationships that weave between the past and the present.
The exhibition will highlight important and highly recognized artists in the museum’s collection, including Henry Darger, Jacob Maentel, Sheldon Peck, Martín Ramírez, Nellie May Rowe, the husband-and-wife team S.A. Shute and R.W. Shute, Bill Traylor, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and Adolf Wölfli.
Among the featured works that will be on display are “Gigantic Roverine with Young&• by Henry Darger, an illustration in his epic 15,000-page manuscript “In the Realms of the Unreal”; “Cow Jump Over the Mone,” Nellie Mae Rowe’s metaphorical self-portrait, in which she presents herself as a hybrid creature, part human part bovine, flying over the moon; and “Joseph Gilman Parker” and “Mary Todd Parker,” an incisive pair of portraits †never before seen publicly †drawn by Ruth Whittier Shute and painted by Samuel Addison Shute.
Additional highlights include untitled (Reina/Madonna), one of several iterations on this theme by the Mexican-born master draftsman Martín Ramírez, who created hundreds of powerful and mesmerizing drawings during 30 years of institutional life in California’s state psychiatric system. Untitled (Marie with Crown) and untitled (Marie Outdoors) by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, who portrayed his wife, Marie, the “queen of his existence,” in thousands of photographs over several decades, will also be on view.
A primary theme of the exhibition is the intersection between life and imagination. Many of the works present an alternate reality that unfetters the limitations of the physical world and/or the strictures of the society of which the artist is a part. Examples of work reflecting this impulse include the 1831 taufschein, or birth record, for Johannes Dottere, a particularly lively example of fraktur with graphic cartoon-like imagery in fresh colors that illustrates the maxim “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
The American Folk Art Museum is at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue at 66th Street). For more information, www.folkartmuseum.org or 212-265-1040.
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