The Slutty Eye: Folk Explosion

At the Frye, more than one visit is required to take it all in.

"The Old Weird America: Folk Themes in Contemporary Art" doesn't evoke the mythological folklore world of Greil Marcus (from whose book the show takes its name) so much as the competitive world of contemporary art, where success requires scale, spectacle, and attitude—or at least a good gimmick. So there's a fair amount of the conceptually cute (Greta Pratt's photos of men dressed as Lincoln) and the aggressively puzzling (the late Jeremy Blake's 18-minute video loop of old buildings and menacing silhouettes). The only real knockout is Margaret Kilgallen's Main Drag (shown above), an immersive dreamscape, inspired by old hand-painted signs, that's tacked and stacked all the way to the rafters. But the sheer volume of imagery and freakish objects (mannequin corpses, dresses twirling on a special dress-twirling machine, etc.) crammed into the Frye right now mean more than one visit is necessary to take it all in. I'd definitely like to take another look at the hyperactive, splattery brushstrokes and bloody Civil War scenes of Barnaby Furnas, for one. I don't think I'll be alone—judging from the sea of skinny jeans on opening day, the show (which originated at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston) is a big hit with the young, hip America. 

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