October 28, 2012

Art Review: Gorey exhibit is a major triumph

By Daniel Kany

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Gorey’s whimsy is evident everywhere in the library show.

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ART REVIEW

"ELEGANT ENIGMAS: THE ART OF EDWARD GOREY"

WHERE: Lewis Gallery, Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square

WHEN: Through Dec. 29

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

INFO: portlandlibrary.com/gorey

But as Gorey had his (adolescent) artistic awakening, surrealism was an international phenomenon.

In the uncanny "Gazebo," we see an impressively rendered alligator on skates being ridden by puzzled children drawn in an easily legible modern cartoon style, while around them swirl Victorian ghosts.

Or we see a girl waking to find herself under the sea with a floating sea monster looking her in the face. In the misplaced logic of dreams, she isn't drowning, but we feel the building tension of forthcoming gasp-breathed, bolt-upright waking.

Gorey saw our society as a "moral swamp," but offers his readers a vision of moral agency beyond grim lesson lists. This is why he appeals to adolescents and young adults -- goth culture in particular -- and it is also why you should think twice before taking easily upset young children to see "Elegant Enigmas."

Still, I think this is a great show for most kids. If they watch cartoons such as "Adventure Time" or "Courage the Cowardly Dog" (which are both brilliant), they will likely be more comfortable with it than their parents. When I took my boys (8 and 11) to "Elegant Enigmas," I had to tear them away. It's that kind of show.

"Elegant Enigmas" is weird and unsettling, but it's important and wonderfully entertaining.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:

dankany@gmail.com

 

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