Laura DeAngelis, Even the Mighty Will Fall I & II, 2012, Ceramic, encaustic, freshwater pearls, playing cards and glass eyes, 6’5″ x 22″ x 22″ each, Courtesy the Artist and Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Photo: EG Schempf
Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865, enjoys a longstanding relationship with the visual arts—ranging from the John Tenniel’s best-known illustrations, to Salvador Dalí’s 1969 version, to Tate Liverpool’s 2011-12 exhibition titled Alice in Wonderland through the Visual Arts. So, it is most fitting that the Kansas City Public Library’s inaugural Great City, Great Read program is a celebration of the book that includes an art exhibition.
Intimate Riot, curated by artist Peregrine Honig, offers a multi-media experience of painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation, and fashion/jewelry design by 11 artists, interspersed with Carroll’s original text. In the intimate library space, Honig smartly deviates from other Alice-related projects by not merely narrating the literature visually. Instead, she chooses to expand upon the character and idea of Alice as an adult, specifically one who collects contemporary art.
Honig states, “I projected a woman who traveled, had a keen eye based on her aristocratic upbringing and paired her with the Alice whose journey through Carroll’s story may have created someone intuitive and prone towards intense hallucinations.” What might an eccentric Victorian woman, who experienced a psychedelic and surreal world, accrue?
Marking the viewer’s entrance into Alice’s dreamlike “cabinet of curiosities” is Laura DeAngelis’ Even the Mighty Will Fall, a large-scale installation of two porcelain stag heads precariously resting atop pedestals of freshwater pearls and playing cards. A pair of crimson boxing gloves dangles on a nearby wall, whimsically calling to mind Alice’s obsession with the white rabbit and the rabbit’s own missing set of gloves. However, Satch Hoyt’s Neverlast reveals a darker, uncanny tone with its play-on-words title and substitution of the standard Everlast™ red leather mittens for ones of luxurious dragon-embroidered silk. This subtle twist challenges the viewer’s expectations by hinting at the commodification of contemporary athletes.
In Barry Anderson’s video Treebeasties (1), the viewer travels through a lush, foliaged tunnel in a fantasy realm. A myriad of colorfully collaged animal and human faces pass by only to vanish back into the forest—a furry-eared raccoon, a freckled faced redhead. The audio also captivates with its chirping birds, crunching leaves and eerie whistles. Rather than a linear narrative, Anderson’s video comprises pop-culture associations and ever-changing visual scenes, an apt parallel to Carroll’s often unrelated vignettes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Near Kate Clements’ sugary glass tiara hangs Being Both Large and Small by Marcus Cain. His miniature-style painting evokes a multicolored cosmos—pointillist particles coalescing into the central form of hot white light. According to the artist, “I am interested in the relationship between the individual and the universal, the elemental and the whole. It is within the context of our world and the greater universe that we are made to feel both large and small in our lives, and I wanted to make a small painting that somehow felt large…It is a dichotomy of the micro and macro that is also reinforced by the scale of the painting in relation to an intimate viewer so that it draws you in…not unlike a rabbit hole.”
Skewed sense of scale again plays an important role David Ford’s Perception, a suspended prayer rug passing through the wall, with a tiny dormouse-sized passageway. These distortions of scale, punches of dramatic color, and inclusions of the curious enhance the surrealism of the exhibition. It puts forward a new art-driven interpretation of Carroll’s words, while also creating a space for the wildly imaginative. Intimate Riot offers all of us the chance to step through the looking glass.
Other artists in the exhibition include Will Cotton, Leo Esquivel, Hadley Anne Johnson, Sally Mann and Erica Voetsch.
“Intimate Riot” continues at the Kansas City Public Library, Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., through Jan. 17, 2016. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 pm. Sunday. For more information, 816-701-3400 or www.kclibrary.org/central.