at home with monsters – guillermo del toro

Over the past two months literally almost everyone I know has asked if I have been to the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to which I calmly replied that I had not yet partaken. I was met with an equal measure of astonishment and encouragement. “You simply must go and the sooner the better” seemed to be the consensus of the day. Never afraid of being late to the party or more accurately, being culturally out of touch, I would ask, “What’s the rush?” Besides, I rather enjoyed the various faces people would make when learning I hadn’t yet visited the exhibit of the year.

Despite what one critic of the Rogue Buddha Gallery once declared, that I “don’t have a brand”, it seems to me that the rigor by which those in my circle exclaimed their desire for me to see this exhibit, speaks to the contrary. From what I could glean from the myriad of photos that flooded social media along with verbal articulations from friends, monsters, fantasy, magical realism, spiritual yearning and the macabre is my art de jour as that seemed to be what was on offer in the MIA’s current exhibit.

I can now say that I see what they mean as I spent the better half of the day a couple weeks back meandering, peering, pausing, contemplating, back stepping and musing at the “At Home with Monsters” exhibit. There was even a gesticulation here and there.

And what was the final consensus? I liked it. If one can be hyperbolic by way of being ironically anticlimactic, then here it is, “It was neat.” But don’t be fooled by my coyness, this exhibit was pretty spectacular. I only say it was neat in order to downplay my innate proclivity towards fanaticism and fanboyhood.

Although being deluged with images on social media, I did pretty well by ignoring the vast majority of photos so as to not spoil the actual “in-person” experience hoping for it to be as genuine as possible. This of course reeks of b.s. as no matter the pre-exposure, the experience in real life would still be genuine and new. It’s like saying someone isn’t a virgin because they’ve watched lots of porn… you get the point… and now I’m off topic…

Back to the point. As it turned out, my self-imposed sequestration from imagery and details about the exhibit paid off. I was more than delighted to see for the first time in person, multiple paintings by one of my favorite artists, the Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski. I had no idea that they were in this exhibit, a fact to which I am still giddy about!

I chalk the lack of his exposure to the fact that his work is probably not the stuff of mass pop culture and hence did not make it into the bazillion photographs that circulated social media which seemed to mostly center on a large Frankenstein head and a creature from one of Guillermo del Toro’s movies. The Frankenstein head btw, as someone who appreciates the inner spiritual and mystical meanings of the story, was still one of the least favorite objects on view on this newly minted fanatics list. If you don’t know the inner meaning of the story, I highly recommend that you do some digging and give it another watch.

Again, back to the point. To see three painting by Zdzislaw Beksinski alone made the entire visit well worth the time and making the long arduous trip from the comforts of Northeast Minnie to Uptown… snarky. 🙂 Having only seen his images online, images that entranced and mesmerized, I held some doubt as to their actual effectiveness in person. Now I know that these doubts were merely a by-product of digital representations on a computer, an argument for brick and mortar galleries and museums if ever there was one! (An article on that is coming soon.) His compositions take on a new significance and harmony seeing them in person. The minimalism of The Cross versus the bleak (pun) landscape yet depth and complexity of the Crucifixion, for example, can only really be appreciated in person… and having the opportunity to scrutinize at eyeball closeness in detail, his technique is flawless.

But then hey, what’s that? A big Frankenstein head? Again, snarky…

Despite growing up with a brother who collected and adored comic books, something the romantic part of me wishes I had done, I never succumbed to their spell. I did however find myself entranced by the collection of comic books on display as I admired the various nuances of their cover designs. Perhaps it was nostalgia for the days where I watched my brother and his friends trading issues and debating their various qualifications towards greatness. Either way, it was a pleasure to spend time in front of a wall of what I am sure to be a more than admirable collection.

I also learned a few names to add to my lexicon of artists. E. M. Gist for example was someone I was not familiar with but have developed an admiration for after seeing his work in person and then stalking him online. Also, Chris Mars, never heard of him. OK, I’m totally lying here. I have loved his work from the get go, not from his very first exhibits but from as far back as 2000 where I first saw his pastels on exhibit at Macalester College.

To be totally honest, I was unfamiliar with Guillermo del Toro himself. I had heard the name and was familiar with the movies Pan’s Labyrinth and Hell Boy but had never seen them or any of his films. After watching many a scene from his various movies that are running throughout the exhibit at the MIA, I felt as though I had missed out on an entire area of the magical realism genre to which I owe so much of my inspiration for informing my artwork. For this I was penitent and began my binge watching at the earliest convenience and have now seen a number of his movies. As a result I feel gratitude for now being introduced to Guillermo del Toro and knowing that the genre to which I owe such gratitude is a wellspring much deeper than I had previously explored and that perhaps it is quite inextinguishable.

What this all boils down to is that it’s a neat show and you should go see it if you can. I believe it ends this weekend.

Cheers!

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