The first United States exhibition of Dutch artist Willem van Genk’s work at the American Folk Art Museum (September 10–November 30) offers a comic counterpoint to the recent Futurist show at the Guggenheim. The Futurists idealized trains, planes, and automobiles as sleek exemplars of power and speed; they typically represented these vehicles in iconic fashion, removed from the real world of crowded stations, airports, and streets. Van Genk, a self-taught artist diagnosed with schizophrenia who died in 2005 at 78, was similarly fascinated by transportation.
The mixed media pieces and constructions included in this show, aptly titled Mind Traffic, depict an array of conveyances — buses, trolleys, trains, cars — presented in actual cityscapes. Traffic is pretty much the nemesis of speed and van Genk is decidedly attuned to the quotidian usefulness of wheeled things rather than any potential mythic dimension.
The most mundane vehicles on display are several trolleybuses constructed from odds and ends (tin cans, cardboard, metal scraps, paper, and plastic) that evidence a charming ramshackle feel — you can almost hear them whirring and clanking down some European city street. From the battered looks of them, most likely it’s their last ride to the junkyard. Crumbled as if having survived recent collision and plastered with advertisements, van Genk’s trolleys speak of transit as we experience it. The noise, dirt, and tedium of traffic jams, airports, and subway stations all adhere to these representative vehicles; they are more like their occupants (pummelled by the daily grind) than any Futurist’s gleaming, aerodynamic train.
Part of a larger installation — “The Arnhem Trolleybus Station” — that the artist kept in his living room, the trolleys call to mind the traditional train set underneath a Christmas tree. They are manifestly toys, albeit long past their day as presents. Yet these are playthings you might find in the basement or attic, relics of youth, their dents and dings reminiscent of those deliberate crashes that always follow the short period of play in which toy vehicles are merely “driven” about the carpet or sidewalk.
Van Genk’s trolleys invite that kind of handling — you want to pick them up, test out their weight, pry open the doors, and give them a good push across the floor. Don’t do that, though. Aside from the legal consequences, you would ruin these gimcrack constructions. Their fragility reminds us that the speed and power of machines are no less temporary than ours and that the junkyard is the destination of the rider and the ride.
Willem van Genk: Mind Traffic continues at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square, Upper West Side, Manhattan) through December 1.
The Association of Art Museum Directors announced a shift in its longstanding policy, which restricted the use of funds from sales of art to new acquisitions only.
Martín Mobarak may have broken Mexican law, but he burned the proof.
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including the Maya Codex of Mexico at the Getty, Beatrice Wood, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and more.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Xaviera Simmons, Cristina Iglesias, Mire Lee, and more.
With explosions of color and materiality, Cave has his own enigmatic ways to funnel the funk through histories of adversity.
Kapwani Kiwanga invites viewers to look with only the quiet glow of natural light seeping in through the skylights, illuminating a nuanced way of seeing race.
Funding options at UB include full-tuition scholarships for MFA students, the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program, and additional opportunities for MA students.
This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.
I inserted the text from five press releases into DALL-E and this is what it churned out.
As protests rage across the country following the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, Iranian and Kurdish artists are creating work in support of freedom.