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October 27, 2005

{     100 Circus Punks Invade NYC     }    

Ruben Rude Circus Punk.jpg The 100 Circus Punks show just uninstalled at The Showroom in New York's East Village took me back to the brutal culture of critique I lived through in art school. As I looked at so many solutions for the same basic visual problem, I noted a striking similarity to the assignments I was confronted with as an art student. This metaphor took on specific significance here though because these weren't just varying treatments of a platform toy concept (a la Dunny) but rather varying takes on a form that, to reference their history as carnival/amusement park knock-down-dolls, are targets crafted with the specific intent of receiving repeated abuse, as seemed every project I undertook as a student. Allow me then, battered survivor of art school that I am, to repeat the pattern started by zealous professors and take aim here. My first impressions were fueled by the dizzying number of pieces presented, 100+ seemed too many to show at once, and I was overwhelmed. With the recognition of entries from stars like Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, Tara McPherson, and The Pizz came the realization that many of the participants had simply turned in brands of themselves rather than engaging the form to elicit further appreciation. Haven't we all seen too much of their respective styles to be satisfied by routine entries in shows like this? Absent was the hunger to reveal something never seen before, and it seemed that many creators held only a desire to turn in a commodity for sale. Sure, they sold, but how boring. Fortunately that left me to be swept up in the blessings of St. Surprise (that most hallowed of all aesthetic angels) who revealed some great unknown talents. Successful pieces showed an admirable combination of sharp craft and clever 2/3D illustrational invention. There was a whole group of artists who, shunning the constraints of the form, exploded it, creating wholly new creatures unrecognizable as Circus Punks altogether. David Huyck sewed felt to great affect with his 2 entries. "Mia Wilmutt n Thul3" (as I think it was hand scrawled on their illegible name tag) created a great flaming, many-headed god beast of a thing using Cabbage Patch Kids. It destroyed. Also worth appreciation were those who chose to cleverly incorporate the hair that lines the perimeter of the circus punk form, like Mark Nagata (who inserted a demonic unicorn horn in the top of his), Bob Dob, Reuben Rude (pictured above), Dirty Donny (garish housing notwithstanding) and Elizabeth Berdan's three pieces. Some created mugs that jokingly evoked empathy or provoked an equally joking desire to obliterate. I would again point to the Punks of Elizabeth Berdan and Reuben Rude for the most striking examples of this. Theirs made me chuckle. All told it was a fun and quirky outing. Weaknesses described, I hope the experience will serve to strengthen future exhibitions of Circus Punks and being so overwhelmed did nothing to diminish my appreciation of the effort as a whole. Several new editions were debuted at the exhibit. Act fast if you want one though. Collectors are knocking them down quicker than a drunk minor leaguer showing off for his girlfriend at Coney Island.

     » Circus Punks

By Aaron in Art


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