Published: November 9, 2010
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910‱983) was one of the most complex and multifaceted self-taught artists in the United States. Over a 50-year period, between the late 1930s until his death in 1983, Von Bruenchenhein produced expansive bodies of work in poetry, photography, ceramics, painting, objects made from chicken and turkey bones and drawing.
The exhibition “Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: Freelance Artist †Poet and Sculptor †Innovator †Arrow maker and Plant man †Bone artifacts constructor †Photographer and Architect ⁐hilosopher,” on view until October 9, 2011, at the American Folk Art Museum, marks the first New York museum presentation of his work across all disciplines. Organized by guest curator Brett Littman, executive director of The Drawing Center, the exhibition comprises approximately 100 objects drawn primarily from the American Folk Art Museum’s holdings, as well as loans from several private collections.
The focus of the exhibition is on the formal leitmotifs of leaves and floral patterns as organizing principles in Von Bruenchenhein’s multidisciplinary oeuvre. It highlights the evolution of these forms from the fabric and wallpaper featured in the early “pinup” photographs of his wife Marie, to hand-built ceramic flowers, vessels and crowns, and the deeply psychological paintings of organic and botanical imagery.
These ideas are further abstracted in vertical chicken and turkey bone towers and thrones, and paintings of spires, castles and visionary buildings.
The exhibition culminates with a book of drawings housed in a wallpaper sample book and 34 rarely displayed ballpoint pen drawings, unifying the two structural strands. Made in the early to mid-1960s, these works range from studies of arabesque curves to hard geometrical architectural designs.
Born in Marinette, Wis., Von Bruenchenhein (known in the art world as EVB) was from an early age self-identified as an artist. His wildly inventive, diverse and ever-growing output of 1,080 paintings †alongside thousands of sculptures, photographs, and notebooks †inundated his small house in Milwaukee by the end of his life, but was known only to family and close friends.
The American Folk Art Museum is at 45 West 53 Street. For information, 212-265-1040 or www.folkartmuseum.org .
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