Contemporary artists explore various views of childhood – a mix of innocence and nostalgia, comic-strip heroes and science fiction, fairy tales and computer games – in this survey of works from the United States and abroad. Almost Warm & Fuzzy presents a whimsical atmosphere and yet, a closer look reveals that all is not warm and fuzzy; it is almost warm and fuzzy. Despite its innocence and pleasures, childhood can also be a time of transition and uncertainty. Works in this exhibition speak to the reality of growing up and becoming an adult, revealing childhood as sometimes being a disturbing or intimidating period in one’s life.
The exhibition features several eye-catching and kinetic pieces. Sandy Skoglund, known for her lush photographs of surreal settings, is represented by her installation, Shimmering Madness. Two life-sized human figures are awash in a sea of sparkling jelly beans; periodically, the viewer is surprised by the twittering sound of butterfly wings that have been mounted on the gallery walls. Joseph Schneider’s galleon, a colorful ship the size of a small car and equipped with dozens of hand-embroidered flags and banners, shoots cannons of confetti as soap bubbles fall on the imaginary sea surrounding it. Charles Long has created Sunday Sculpting School, where the audience is invited to play with chocolate-colored Play-Doh. The Art Guys (Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing) use chicken wire, sound chips, amps, and speakers in order to create a giant note that sneezes, sniffles and says, “Achoo!”
Other sculptural works complement the interactive pieces. Yoshitomo Nara plays on the tradition of animation with his larger-than-life masks of cartoon characters, conveying both cute and naughty sentiments. David Beck probes the questions of natural history when we peer into his mixed-media construction to find the skeleton of a dodo bird. Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s Flea Circus is a miniature set-up filled with microscopic performers, and Vernon Fisher’s painting inhabits the middle ground between a landscape and abstract painting. By placing flies on the surface, Fisher questions our notions of what art should look like, and what materials should be used in art-making.
Almost Warm & Fuzzy is accompanied by a 24-page children’s activity book that enables children to come to an understanding of the exhibition and the visual arts by engaging directly with the works.