The Puppet Show

Main Gallery May 24–Aug 9, 2008

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The Puppet Show
May 24–Aug 9, 2008





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Dennis Oppenheim, Theme for a Major Hit, 1974

International in scope, this exhibition brought together works by twenty-eight contemporary artists exploring the imagery of puppets in sculpture, film, video, time-based media, animation, and 2D work. Participating artists included Guy Ben-Ner, Nayland Blake, Louise Bourgeois, Maurizio Cattelan, Anne Chu, Nathalie Djurberg, Terence Gower, Dan Graham, Christian Jankowski, Mike Kelley, William Kentridge, Cindy Loehr, Annette Messager, Paul McCarthy, Matt Mullican, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Philippe Parreno and Rirkrit Tiravanija, Thomas Schütte, Doug Skinner and Michael Smith, Laurie Simmons, Kiki Smith, Survival Research Laboratory, Kara Walker, and Charlie White.

The Puppet Show took as its historic point of departure a great work of European avant-garde art history: Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play Ubu Roi, which was originally conceived as a puppet show. The despotic King, who strode on stage roaring the French scatological word ”merdre,” is the perfect source for all puppet allegories of grotesque government and acts of puppet transgression. More recently, puppets have taken hold of popular consciousness. They show up on stage, on television, in film, and even online, where assuming a fake identity to garner public opinion is called ”sock-puppeting.” Seen in correspondence with these pop culture images, the works in The Puppet Show advanced the question: Why do puppets matter now?

The Puppet Show installation included works by participating artists as well as a collection of historic puppets, which were housed in Puppet Storage – the exhibition’s simultaneous entry and ”backstage” or unconsciousness.