The American Visionary Art Museum’s eleventh annual mega-exhibition opened officially this weekend. This exhibit is co-curated by museum director Rebecca Hoffberger and Lily Yeh, founder of Village Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia. This is a well-thought-out show exploring, as the AVAM release states:
those attributes which we value most in ourselves and in others that transcend the confines of religion, place and time.It’s a lofty challenge that is eloquently defined by Nancy Burson’s Human Race Machine, an interactive photo booth in which visitors see an image of their face morphed into six different races. Our differences are truly skin deep.
We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are gazing at the stars. - Oscar WildeThere are nearly 300 artworks in this show, something to engage most everyone. I’m impressed that after eleven shows there are still so many great works that have not been exhibited. Especially when the focus shifts internationally, with the work of Ku SHU-Lan of China and figures from Nek Chand’s 12-acre paradise, The Rock Garden, shown left, in Chandigarth, India, made from industrial waste and debris. Chand’s is now the largest visionary environment in the world and the second most popular tourist attraction in India. This is definitely on my travel wish list, but I also wish we didn’t need so many shots to travel to India, ouch!
Andrew Logan’s Black Icarus, shown at the top right, is a new addition to the AVAM collection. It slowly and mysteriously glides on a cable system in the main stairwell.
One of the best parts about an opening reception is the opportunity to meet the artists, like David Samuel, with some of his carved and painted New York street vignettes. Also shown at right, an image of Linda St John’s 100 Dirt Yard Girls, made from pipe cleaners, cloth, plastic, lint, sticks, burlap, string, and paper. The walls of the gallery are covered with many more.
More works of note are the paintings of the late Henry Sugimoto, the grandson of a Japanese samurai, several pieces by the late Reverend Howard Finster, the portraits of first ladies by Morgan Monceaux, and some beautiful painted wood carvings by Adrian Kellard.
Race Class Gender ≠ Character will run through September 3, 2006.
See also Jonathan Pitts, Beauty that is more than skin deep (Baltimore Sun, September 25).