On view February 16, 2019 - April 21, 2019


Dystopian Paintings from the Marc and Livia Straus Family Collection  

Where is the Madness You Promised Me brings together a selection of international dystopian paintings that go beyond the typical gray, post-apocalyptic scene. Inspired by personal experience and real-life observations, the works in this exhibition imagine potential dire futures while remaining firmly rooted in fears and anxieties sparked by present conditions.

The paintings presented act as vehicles of social commentary by exploring extreme classism, deteriorating environments, global reliance on technology, and various ills that could spawn bleak new futures. In Night Flight or Midnight Migration, or On My Merry Way (2008), Hernan Bas paints a rich landscape of tangled, wondrous flora and fauna that overcomes habitable space. The wild environment surrounds a diffident, seated man, evoking discomfort and isolation—a psychological dystopia.

Ian Davis borrows imagery from totalitarian states to illuminate absurdities in our social systems. In Monument (2009), scores of identical businessmen assume a rigid formation before stacked speakers and overhead projectors. Through this arrangement, Davis likens the men to armies of authoritarian states. These defenders of the economy exude the same discipline and lack of individuality associated with war machines, a nod to the prioritization of profit and economic clout.

Artist Tjebbe Beekman envisions dystopia in the form of broken, fragmented manmade structures. In Ilias (2017), dark renderings of dilapidated buildings suggest turbulent upheaval and distress. The artist does not contextualize this destruction or offer clues its cause; he leaves viewers to imagine the reasons.

The haunting and occasionally humorous paintings in the exhibition are symptomatic of artists’ suspicion of the status quo and an unsteady fear of tomorrow—they are warning signs painted to awaken the observer. In presenting these bleak absurdities, Where is the Madness You Promised Me demands a critical look at the present and the structures upon which we stand.

Featured Artists: Hernan Bas (American), Tjebbe Beekman (Dutch), Jonas Burgert (German), Nigel Cooke (British), Ian Davis (American), Tim Eitel (German), Sven Kroner (German), Marin Majic (German), Djordje Ozbolt (Yugoslavian), Daniel Pitin (Czech), Rick Prol (American), Michael Raedecker (Dutch), Norbert Schwontkowski (German), and Anj Smith (British).


Selected works

Anj Smith,  Architecton Alpha , 2007

Anj Smith, Architecton Alpha, 2007