In the near future or not so distant past, the world is in ruins from a long overdue apocalypse. Curiously, most of the remaining survivors consist of a gang of children who have a penchant for wearing Victorian era clothing. These kids scrounge to survive in the ghost that the Earth left behind, where mutant animals roam, buildings appear to be organic and alive, and all other material culture is shattered and strewn like the donations left overnight at a Salvation Army.
The Briny Deep (Detail)
This grotesque but charming scenario is not unlike the world that Alex Kuno explores in Miscreants of Tiny Town, an expansive series of paintings that he has been exploring in recent years. The latest batch of this work is currently on view at Cult Status Gallery in South Minneapolis.
The work in this exhibition tells a very richly constructed story of an alternate reality through a series of individual narratives that could have come from a children’s book in the days when children’s books didn’t need to be nice or happy. The images here are absurd, adventurous, often dark and, at times, unsettling. But best of all, the surfaces give your mind a place to play and dream, reminding us of the insane inner voyages that captured our imaginations as kids. Thankfully, Kuno never resorts to the straight up shock value (which never is really shocking) of many artists who explore similar subject matter. The work here feels sincere and charming in an unsettling way.
The Last Gasp (Detail)
These paintings vary in size but, in general, are relatively small in scale and are all exist on organically shaped pieces of wood, giving them an aura of something found and rather than manufactured pieces. The surfaces are slightly rough with the patterns of smeared Gesso and the imperfections of the wood visible. They do have a very finished look but without the hoity-toity fuss. There is a quality about these paintings that feels timeless.
While narrative in nature, this work transcends straight illustration with the palpable presence of true anxiety lurking under the surface. This level of emotion mirrors the fears, often not real, that our culture embraces which is capitalized on by the media. The work also seems to be a conduit for own Kuno’s personal discomforts. Here is a quote about this taken from Alex Kuno’s website:
The Miscreants of Tiny Town emerged as something of an unintended side effect of the bleakly surreal world we’ve been plummeted into by the equally surreal War on Terror, it has often served as an attempt to both channel and mock the metastasizing paranoia caused by constant dire warnings of coming and/or current global catastrophes. They’re playful, satirical jabs at those nagging reminders of the fact that the varnish-thin securities and comforts we’ve been taught to take for granted are also directly responsible for our own impending disasters. But as I’ve slowly been able to build my life around the production of these characters and stories full-time, the work has also become parodies of my inner monologues in a way. They’re my own little Friar’s Club, “roasting” that formless cloud of anxieties and keeping it from getting too high on its horse.
The paintings in this show represent the newest reports from this Kuno’s strange inner world. I can’t help but think of him as a young, healthier (much healthier) and more well spoken Henry Darger with a lifetime of this work still to come. …and I can’t wait to see where he will take us….
This show is running through Apr 17 but the Cult Status Gallery is open by appointment only, which means you need to call to set up a time to have the door opened for you. I know many people aren’t used to doing this, but it’s easy. Here is the phone #. You don’t have to buy anything when you make an appointment but the work in this show is very good and, in all honesty, Kuno’s prices are really too low, ... so you might want to.
The Miscreants of Tiny Town and the Unknown Unknowns
March 16th- April 17th
Cult Status Gallery
2913 Harriet Avenue South