Saturday, March 6, 2010
Tim Burton at MOMA
Tim Burton - Balloon Boy
Quite accidentally, on the weekend prior to Alice in Wonderland opening, I visited the Museum of Modern Art, where I saw Tim Burton’s solo exhibition. The affair was predictably overstuffed with works of wildly varying qualities. Adding insult to injury, crowd flow and accessibility of the works to even able bodied patrons lived down to my expectations. I do not question the museum-worthiness of his work up to a point. That said, there are some stinkers in the mix. You can certainly see how his ideas evolve and make their way into the films. I considered his technical skill to be admirable and I kept thinking about what he could do with print media, especially etching. But as stand alones, most of the works are sketches, and by definition, ideas which are not yet fully formed, only reinforcing the fact that Burton’s true art is the finished film. Of the film pieces installed in the gallery, mostly lesser known shorts and animations, they were again hard to access and devote one’s attention because of crowd overflow.
Some of the sketches are intriguing, and codify the influence on his work of movements such as Expressionism, Surrealism, and art of the Wiemar Republic. I also found myself constantly reminded of Odilon Redon, himself the subject of a wonderful retrospective at MOMA five years ago. There were groupings of studies for weird and deranged characters that never made the cut into a film, reminding me of Leonardo’s studies of grotesque heads and even Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s character busts. Burton’s debt to these art historical antecedents is tempered by the way he has extrapolated from them a style wholly his own.
As for the area that left me most disappointed with the overall artistic and curatorial quality of the show? The display of costume pieces and props—inclusive of things like Batman cowls, the Edward Scissorhands suit on a Johnny Depp mannequin, and an absolutely dreadful scarecrow from Sleepy Hollow—were more worthy of Planet Hollywood or Madame Tussaud’s.