On a recent trip to Minneapolis, we spent a good part of a day at the Walker Art Center. Growing up in the area, I’d always enjoyed the quirkiness of the museum’s exhibitions but now, coming at it from the distance of time and experience with many other museums, I’m even more appreciative of the way the curators encourage a simultaneously less serious and more thoughtful approach to art.
Brilliant example: The John Waters curated show, Absentee Landlord, at the Walker until next summer. Curators at the Walker invited Waters to look through the museum’s permanent collection and create his own show. The result is a mix of old established artists and new and unconventional pieces, including some of Waters.
“I’m interested in artists who are okay with being hated, because the work we hate today is often the work we end up liking and admiring in the future,” Waters said. In that spirit, the show is organized with the theme, “Troublemakers.”
But it is not only the work he chose, it’s how Waters chose to hang it. A DeKooning is hung a few inches from the ground, either a play on high art versus low art or bringing the artist down to earth. Imagining museums in general as apartment buildings of sorts, with the mannered and obnoxious in close proximity, Waters often pairs works in odd ways — a swath of wall-to-wall carpeting by artists Mike Kelley hangs next to a John Currin painting of a couple on a date.
Throughout the show, Waters flouts the “rules” and pretension of some museum, mocking the ban on getting too close to the art by displaying a flower which squirts water when you approach it. The audio tour is conducted in pig latin.
Waters compared curating the show to making a mixed tape, a great analogy for the way I used to discover great new music and begin to think differently about my taste.