Monday, June 20, 2011

Gala of the Grotesque

Untitled #2 (2011) by Scott Radke

"Burlap" is the title of an exhibit at Thinkspace Gallery, featuring the mixed media sculptures of Scott Radke. It's an interesting show but a bit difficult to accurately describe. The problem lies in the nature of the art works themselves. They have a shifting narrative premise based upon their current environment. To a degree, these are not self-contained sculptures, but focal points to an improvised installation artwork.

The show consists of a series of sculptures and some photographs of these pieces, generally within a evocative setting. The sculptures are of chimerical figures of a "fairy tale" nature. They are gnome-like fey creatures. Some are humanoid in their general appearance, but others are animals or flowers with gnomish faces. The majority of them are covered in a dark sackcloth material either as clothing or skin. It is from this rich material that the show derives it name, "Burlap".

I really enjoyed looking at them. Each piece had a distinct "personality" and expressive presence. The craftsmanship of their design was excellent. These chimerical figures really captured my imagination.

Bird #5 (2011) by Scott Radke

And it's in the imaginative engagement that the pieces become especially noteworthy.

The fey creatures are designed in such a manner that they seem to be considering their surroundings. Their eyes seem to be assessing things and their facial features, eyebrows and lips, hint at their opinions. Even in the relatively unstaged settings of Thinkspace Gallery, the creatures seemed to be interacting with their surroundings.

For instance, when you enter the gallery and look along its length, at the far end, Untitled #1 and Untitled #2 are placed side by side facing in your direction, each patiently holding their big blue eggs. Untitled #1 is looking at the open floor space and whoever happens to be standing there. It seems to be interested in the socializing that is taking place within the gallery. On the other hand, Untitled #2 is looking at the pieces hanging on the eastern wall. It seems pensive and withdrawn from the rest of the room.

That's pure context. These pieces were not designed to be site specific, but they are so expressive that they seem to be. Again, they make their settings into installation works, of which they are a focal point.

Flyers (2011) by Scott Radke

The key to this effect is these works inspired empathy from the viewer. This is a classic element of the grotesque. They capture the interest with their bizarre features, but hold it with their empathic expressiveness. They are "something rich and strange."

Since we're on the topic of the grotesque, here's a vid of showing some classic icons of the aesthetic.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this exhibit.

Here is Scott Radke's website.

Here's the Thinkspace Galleries website.

And here is the Grotesque Wikipedia page.



  1. These sculptures look more like drawings - stuff you would see illustrate an interpretation of the Brothers Grimm for instance.

    I'd love to get a couple to be garden gnomes!

  2. Yeah, they have a bit of an Edward Gorey feel. I was going to entitle this post "Dance of the Drolleries" in reference to the weird creatures in the margins of illuminated manuscripts, but I felt that such a title would be too obscure. Even for this blog. ;-)