Monday, November 26, 2018

Museum Exhibition Review Essay

The American Museum of Folk Art now offers a paradoxical opportunity to find oneself into a parallel world, the one created in the head and by the hands of Henry Darger, a self taught artist whose impact on many contemporary artists is incontestable. Visiting the American Folk Art Museum’s exhibition “Dargerism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger” is like getting a cameo in “Being Henry Darger” movie for the time of the visit.

Darger is called one of the most significant artists of the XX century. His epic masterpiece, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, supported by the three hundred watercolor and collage paintings, inspired numerous young talented artists to create for the sake of art and express ones feelings and ideas through the artwork. Darger is believed to have unintentionally become the founder of the Dargerism movement standing for the “all-consuming devotion to artmaking”, according to the curator of the exhibition, Brooke Davis Anderson.

Henry Darger’s works impress immensely first of all because they reflect a mythic world born in Darger’s imagination through the non-academic drawing that shares ingenuous sincerity difficult to resist. The visitor is simply caught by the author’s vision of the world and feels reality distorts to become Darger’s illustrations.

The uniqueness of Darger’s works is probably also quite inspiring itself – the motives are being used by the followers that use his distinctive techniques to reflect the modern world through the artworks.

The work “At battle of Drosabellamaximillan. Seeing Glandelinians retreating Vivian girls grasp Christian banners, and lead charge against foe” (watercolor, pencil, carbon tracing, and collage on pieced paper) created by Henry Darger in Chicago at the middle of the XX century, depicts the battlefield where doll-like brave girls, all kept scatheless, unite under the banners and move forward in their fight against the enemy. The touching braveness of the characters as well as their accented fragility are truly provoking empathy in the hearts and minds of every visitor.

Another picture, the illustration for “At sunbeam creek. Are with little girl refugees again in peril from forest fires. But escape this also, but half naked and in burned rags at Torrington. Are pursued by a storm of fire but save themselves by jumping into a stream and swim across as seen in next picture / their red color is caused by glare of flames. At Torrington. They reach the river just in the nick of time.”

Using the same paint and collage technique the author provides three equally impressive illustrations on the given topic of the brave girls that overcome all kinds of hardships and ordeals. The reality Henry Darger seen and was so kind to uncover to the world is breathtaking. It opens the door to the long-forgotten childhood fairy tales and mystic stories we all loved most. For all those who look for inspiration or the lost feeling of childhood naivety and beauty, visiting this exhibition is an absolute must.