Inspired by Mike Kelley’s observation that “the mass art of today is the folk art of tomorrow,” The Spectacular of Vernacular reflects an expanded view of the vernacular posited in Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, and Robert Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas (1972), one that embraces the spectacle of the street and the stylistic cacophony of the strip—the totems, billboards, and neon signs of roadside America. Thus amidst the visibly handcrafted works of Matthew Day Jackson and Dario Robleto are the dense and day-glow paintings of Lari Pittman, the glittering trophy heads of Marc Swanson, and the urban relics of Rachel Harrison. These works, and others in the exhibition, suggest a long road trip through the emblems and eyesores of street vernacular, replete with its tourist destinations and outmoded hotels. A strong showing of photographs informs the exhibition, including work by WPA-era photographer Walker Evans, as well as more recent work by William Eggleston, whose color-saturated images gravitate toward the tawdry palette of faded billboards and road signs. New to CAMH’s presentation of the exhibition is an additional work by Houston-based artist Robleto, The Minor Chords Are Ours (2010), and a 2001 sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, Regression.
Through strategic selections that capture varied practices, the exhibition reflects artists’ equal fascination with rustic as well as urban vernacular, lending the installation a visually diverse and dynamic character. In a culture in which art is increasingly globalized in its look and dissemination, The Spectacular of Vernacular considers work that can be heavily narrated, highly personal, and laboriously produced.
Marina Abramović, Siah Armajani, Louise Bourgeois, William Christenberry, Shannon Ebner, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Rachel Harrison, Matthew Day Jackson, Jess, Butt Johnson, William E. Jones, Mike Kelley, Chris Larson, Kerry James Marshall, Ree Morton, Laura Owens, Jack Pierson, Lari Pittman, Faith Ringgold, Dario Robleto, Jim Shaw, Lorna Simpson, Aaron Spangler, Marc Swanson, Jeffery Vallance, and Kara Walker.
The Spectacular of Vernacular is organized by the Walker Art Center and is curated by Darsie Alexander, Walker Chief Curator.
A fully illustrated 112-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition and includes an essay by exhibition curator Darsie Alexander; a reprint of John Brinckerhoff Jackson’s “Vernacular” from his seminal 1984 reader on vernacular landscapes; and a reflection by artist and curator Andy Sturdevant on the evolution of roadside vernacular, and attendant histories of heartland America. This publication is distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. and is available in CAMH’s Museum Shop.