The Spectacular of VernacularDarsie Alexander, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Andy Sturdevant, Camille Washington
The Spectacular of Vernacular addresses the role of vernacular forms in the work of 26 artists who utilize craft, folklore and roadside kitsch to explore the role of culturally specific iconography in the increasingly global world of art. Drawing inspiration from such sources as local architecture, amateur photographs and state fair banners, their work runs the spectrum from the sleek to the handcrafted. Inspired by Mike Kelley’s observation that “the mass culture of today is the folk art of tomorrow,” these artists embrace the totems and neon signs of roadside America. Thus, alongside the visibly handcrafted works of Matthew Day Jackson and Dario Robleto we find the dense and day-glo paintings of Lari Pittman, the glittering trophy heads of Marc Swanson and the urban relics of Rachel Harrison. These works and others suggest a long road trip through the emblems and eyesores of tourist destinations and outmoded hotels. The photography component includes work by William Eggleston, whose color-saturated images gravitate toward the tawdry palette of faded billboards and road signs. This fully-illustrated catalogue includes an essay by exhibition curator Darsie Alexander exploring artists’ interest in the vernacular as a means to address aspects of folk ritual, amateur craft and sense of place in their work; a reprint of John Brinckerhoff Jackson’s “Vernacular” from his seminal 1984 reader Discovering the Vernacular Landscape; and a reflection by artist and curator Andy Sturdevant on the evolution of roadside vernacular, and attendant histories of heartland America where it is so abundant. Also included is a reading list gathered from a cross section of art criticism and cultural studies.