Fear & Folly

The Visionary Works of Francisco Goya & Federico Castellon

Francisco Goya,
"A Way to Fly" by Francisco Goya, ca. 1816-1823

on view January 14-March 15, 2014
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 16, 6:30-8:30pm
James R. Reynolds Student Art Gallery
Tue-Fri 9am-8pm and Sat-Sun noon-6pm

Exhibition organized through Kalamazoo Institute of Arts with the generous support of Mary and James B. Crawley

Separated by about 150 years, Francisco Goya (1746-1828) and Federico Castellon (1914-1971), often appear closer to one another than to their contemporaries. Displaying little concern for the prevailing artistic trends, both artists turned their attention to the human condition. They plunge viewers into an uninhibited realm of the unconscious, a hidden world usually encountered only in dreams or nightmares with imagery that is both beautiful and disturbing.

The creative imagination of both artists can be found in a uniquely Spanish source: the duende. In Spanish folklore, the duende is a kind of goblin-like creature, a trickster and troublemaker. The great Spanish poet Garcia Lorca saw the duende as something more—the creative forces of the earth, the primordial, irrational powers that intensified life. Lorca claimed it defined the very character of the Spanish imagination. Rather than call upon the muse for inspiration, Spanish artists often wrestled with the demonic power of the duende. As the poet explained, “the duende delights in struggling freely with the creator on the edge of the pit.”

The prints in Goya's last major series, the Disparates, are some of his darkest, most enigmatic creations. Nearly thirty years earlier he was painting lighthearted scenes of leisure activities to be made into tapestries for the royal palaces. In the Disparates, some of Goya's earlier subjects reemerge as disturbing and even diabolic images. (See Feminine Folly and Merry Folly.)

Castellon was also drawn to the duende, creating work that focused on the individual’s encounter with the dark and mysterious forces of life. When a publisher proposed he illustrate a work of fiction, Castellon immediately chose Edgar Allen Poe’s story, The Masque of the Red Death. Castellon was moved by the sense of loneliness and isolation that permeated Poe's work, the “uniqueness of an individual, this kind of floating and trying to find a niche that really isn't there.”

Many artists have been drawn to things dark and fantastic, but few have probed the human condition with the insight and truthfulness found in these images. But something else is present as well. Federico Castellon believed the emotional shock we experience when looking at Goya’s etchings is caused not by their strangeness and irrationality, but by their beauty. He could be describing his own work as well.

Through the Lens of Howard G. Buffett

Conflict & Development: The Nexus of Animal, Environment and the Human Condition

This exhibit focuses attention on wildlife, human conflict and food insecurity. Howard G. Buffett has dedicated his life to affecting a positive change in developing nations through agricultural improvements, sanitation and providing assistance to displaced peoples. Through his photography he is able to raise awareness and move individuals to take action. The beautiful colors, textures and patterns capture the eye and give an insightful and intimate look at people and animals around the world. The unique perspective makes an impression that will remain intact for years to come.

A full list of exhibit partners and hosts is available here.

George Rodrigue, The Blue Dog

George Rodrigue was born and raised in New Iberia, at the heart of Cajun culture. After studying at what is now The University of Louisiana at Layfayette, he attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. After school, Rodrigue returned to Louisiana.

Rodrigue's love and appreciation for Cajun culture are evident throughout his works. His early works feature myths and personalities from Louisiana. Today, he is best known for his Blue Dog paintings. The first Blue Dog was commissioned for the cover of a book of Cajun ghost stories. Since then, it has developed into the Blue Dog we all know and love today.

Jacob Lawrence: Prints

Jacob Lawrence: Prints, features color prints created by Jacob Lawrence between 19872 and 2000. The exhibition was curated by Peter Nesbett, editor of Jacob Lawrence, The Complete Prints (1963-2000), The Catalogue Raisonne.

Jacob Lawrence: Prints provides a rare opportunity to experience Lawrence's work first-hand. It provides insight into Lawrence's interest in visual storytelling and his deft ability to address grand subjects with an economy of artistic means. They are evidence of the artist's ability to mine historical subject matter to address contemporary concerns. And they reflect the artist's ongoing attempt to explore the nature of humanity and to make sense of the mysteries of life.

Since his first published print in 1963 Jacob Lawrence has produced a body of prints that is both highly dramatic and intensely personal. In his graphic work, as in his paintings, Lawrence has turned to the lessons of history and to his own experience. From depictions of civil rights confrontations to scenes of daily life, these images present a vision of a common struggle toward unity and equality, a universal struggle deeply seated in the depths of the human consciousness.

The exhibition was on view April 21-June 16, 2012.

Thank you to our generous partners:
Department of Multicultural Services
MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee
Africana Studies Program
Race & Ethnic Studies Institute

Past Exhibitions

Exhibitions 2005-06

Exhibitions 2006-07

Exhibitions 2007-08

Exhibitions 2008-09

Exhibitions 2009-10

Exhibitions 2010-11

Exhibitions 2011-12