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The Grotesque Is The Subject Of A Special Exhibition At The University Of Virginia Art Museum 

February 18, 2005 --

EXHIBIT

WHAT:         “Punch Line: Six Centuries of the Comic and the Grotesque in Prints, Drawings, and Photographs from the Collection"

WHEN:         Saturday, March 5, through Saturday, April 30

WHERE:      University of Virginia Art Museum

                  155 Rugby Road

                  Open 1-5, Tuesday-Sunday

TALK

WHO:        Matthew Affron, Director of Special Curatorial Projects,

University of Virginia Art Museum

WHAT:         Gallery Talk

WHEN:         Sunday, March 6, 2 p.m.

WHERE:      U.Va. Art Museum

                  155 Rugby Road

                  Free and open to the public

        

"Grotesque" is a notoriously unruly category of art and aesthetics. The term, which means “a style of painting, sculpture and ornamentation in which natural forms and monstrous figures are intertwined in bizarre or fanciful combination,”  relates to all manner of images which prompt many conflicting emotions, from delight to mirth to horror. This exhibition, “Punch Line: Six Centuries of the Comic and the Grotesque in Prints, Drawings, and Photographs from the Collection," draws on works from the U.Va. Art Museum collection in a survey of the key steps in the development of the grotesque, and the related category of caricature, within art in the West.  The works range from whimsical architectural ornaments of the late Renaissance to 20th century political protest images.

Grotesque originated during the Renaissance as a technical term for designs for the decoration of walls, columns and other architectural elements that combined human, animal and vegetal elements in fantastic ways. The exhibition begins with artists' engravings that were important to the dissemination of this new type of ornament in the 16th century. Next, it considers the phenomenon of the capriccio — works of imagination, farce and black humor — between the 17th and 19th centuries. Examples in the exhibition include such widely differing images as Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s strange symbolic portrait heads composed of objects relevant to them, such as fruits, vegetables and animals, among others; G. B. Piranesi's experimental architectural studies; and Francisco Goya's satires on human folly. 

Subsequent sections demonstrate further shifts in the meaning and interpretation of the grotesque in the visual arts. One section brings together prints by Jacques Callot, Annibale Carracci and Albrecht Dürer to explore the tradition of depicting human wickedness in terms of gross and physically repellent physiognomy. Another section samples works of caricature—the visual exaggeration of distinctive human features to mock or attack social and political targets—produced by James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and other British draftsmen in the 1780s and 1790s. Prints by Odilon Redon, in homage to Edgar Allen Poe, show the Symbolist affinity for the grotesque. Surrealist works by Hans Bellmer, Georges Hugnet and Joan Miró focus on distortions and dislocations of the human form, a high point in the visual tradition of the grotesque.

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Photos for media use are available at the U.Va. Art Museum Web site: http://www.virginia.edu/artmuseum. Click on press releases in the menu on the right. If you have difficulty downloading the images, contact Jane Ford at (434) 924-4298 or jford@virginia.edu.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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