Beautiful Freaks, Group Show
24 June – 28 July 2022, Tuesday to Friday
Scene 1. Paris, Champ de Mars, inside the Palais de l’Industrie. Charles Baudelaire, the poet with tiny but extremely alert eyes, walks surprised by the halls of the Universal Exhibition of 1855 and makes a mental note: «Beauty is always strange. I do not want to say that it is voluntarily, coldly strange, because in that case it would be a monster out of the rails of life. I say that it always contains a bit of rarity, naive, unsought, unconscious rarity, and that it is this rarity that makes it particularly Beautiful. Is its license plate, its trait. » The first sentence was a quote from his admired Edgar Allan Poe: Beauty—like what is new— is rare, extravagant, bizarre and, sometimes, monstrous.
Scene 2. New York, apartment next to Central Park, at night, early 20th century. The emaciated body of the banker and collector J. P. Morgan walks almost naked through his halls dressed only in a Renaissance helmet and breastplate of precious metallic repousse and all fine gold work drawn and made in the workshop of Filippo Negroli. The pieces, tremendously bizarre in detail, are designed more to impress and scare the opponent than as an element of protection in combat. If geeky Mr. Morgan had looked at himself in the mirror in the moonlight, he would have been petrified by his own appearance of Medusa —Simon Schama imagined him in an essential critical exercise on a fantastic exhibition of armor at the Metropolitan Museum in New York .
Scene 3. New York still, but at the end of the 1930s. The literary, musical and artistic critic Clement Greenberg, practitioner of Kantian idealism and leader of the pictorial formalism that would become, publishes an article in Partisan Review entitled “Avant-garde and kitsch” where he finds the key to the relationship between innovative creation and its subsequent adaptation and popular more affordable and industrially produced substitutes – all analyzed in the context of the Great Depression, before the Second World War and long before the explosion of Pop Art, a movement that Greenberg did not agree with and that was incomprehensible to him (while Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles plays). We read Greenberg: “The precondition of kitsch, without which it would be impossible, is accessibility to a fully mature cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions, and perfected self-awareness exploits kitsch for its own purposes. […] The truth is that, after the necessary time has elapsed, what is new is stolen for new “turns” and served as kitsch, after watering it down.”
Scene 4. Valencia, traveling and panoramic in the gallery. The exhibition Beautiful Freaks brings together the works of Andrew Birk, Philip Gerald, David Noro, Guillermo Ros, Mike Shultis, Liga Spunde and Jon Young, disparate artists who come together here in a kind of celebration that will draw the attention of viewers like that Expo of 1855 to Baudelaire: the bizarreness of beautifulness as a celebration of a new painting that insists on the relationship of the image (its preparation, its execution) with the clichés of tradition and our post-Internet, post-Pop and post-everything visuality. Here you can see —in line with the program defended by the gallery— a part of what is beautiful in today’s artistic creation but also what is the same: marvelousness, eccentricity and beauty, phenomenal, abnormal, geeky, outlandish, any weirdo, all creatures… An aesthetic jolt, without a doubt, that makes us think as always that what new artists do is not so new, but it is rare, because it is hypermodern, and beautiful. And kitsch.
End. Black Out and voiceover. It is always good to remember, as Milan Kundera wrote — correcting, of course, Greenberg’s assessment — that “kitsch” is “a German word that was born in the middle of the sentimental nineteenth century and later spread to all languages. But frequency of use has blurred its original metaphysical meaning, that is: kitsch is the absolute negation of shit; literally and figuratively: kitsch removes everything in human existence that is essentially unacceptable from its point of view.