Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Midwestern Mysticism

Some of you may have heard that I drove a truck to Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago. I did it in 40 hours, sleeping for a single hour on the New Mexico / Texas border, and pretty much only stopping for fuel the rest of the way. To keep fuel costs low, I drove the entire way without any air conditioning during the hottest summer on record. Suffice to say that there aren't a lot of people that I would do this for, but Myron Dyal is definitely one of them.

Shauta Marsh of the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art contacted me about half a year ago to discuss me acting as a guest curator for an available spot in August. I've been looking for a museum setting for Myron's work since we hosted the original Charon's Pantheon back in February 2011. We were able to showcase this important exhibition in Orange County at the Grand Central Art Center of Santa Ana, and performances of Jennifer Logan's musical score to Myron's sculptures were held at Occidental College and elsewhere, but the opportunity to indoctrinate a completely new audience in a MOCA setting was a dream come true.

We were a little worried at first about how the people in Chick-fil-A, territory would react to Myron's intensely spiritual portraits and sculptures. Since I was unable to attend, I was concerned about not being able to help explain the pieces if things got rowdy, but the press and reviews have been absolute raves. The Indianapolis Star listed the show as a top-five, must-see event, and below is a 5 star review from NUVO's Dan Grossman, who might be the most important art critic in the mid-west. So, many thanks to Shauta Marsh for having the courage to book us, and a warm, hearty congrats to Myron Dyal for getting some serious recognition in a serious space.

From NUVO: Indy's Alternative Voice:

Review: Myron Conan Dyal, 'Charon's Pantheon'


As a child, Myron Conan Dyal's fundamentalist Christian parents subjected him to bouts of isolation and crude forms of exorcism in response to his epilepsy. The visions associated with this condition ultimately inspired a body of artwork that would puncture the boundaries of the religion that he was immersed in as a child.

Dyal's exhibit at iMOCA, curated by Matt Kennedy of Los Angeles's La Luz de Jesus Gallery, is grouped into two parts.

The smaller back gallery features a hothouse of colorful acrylic paintings and painted sculpture like "The Guardian of Male Energy," which seems a hybrid humanoid/flowering plant with a keyboard in hand (Dyal is a classically trained pianist). Paintings like "The Guardian," a chimerical humanoid figure with a ruminant-like skull for a head, suggest an animistic spirituality as well as a hermetic symbolism. Dyal's subjects seem to inhabit a netherworld between the living and the dead such as one might find in the rich rot of a tropical forest's floor.

The modus operandi behind Dyal's larger exhibit Charon's Pantheon, which occupies the larger, front gallery, is not diversity, as in the backroom, but unity. The piece collects 13 life-sized, paper mache sculptures in the forms of human - and humanoid - creatures. Six white sculptures and six black sculptures stand on either side of a "Red Shroud" statue, which remains completely veiled. This veil cannot be lifted physically; it's part of the sculpture.

While the "Red Shroud," by its placement, suggests a sort of birth mother from which the other figures spring, its exact symbolism remains hidden and mysterious, though Dyal offers interpretive clues via his poetry, included on the placards that identify each sculpture. Here and there, the figures bear a familiar countenance: the all-white figure of "As Above, So Below" resembles no one so much as the Virgin Mary.

If you've read your Joseph Campbell, you may know that Mary has her corollary in religious traditions more ancient than Christianity. And as you walk from left to right, from white to black, the figures become increasingly bizarre, chimerical, and foreboding - even primeval
While Dyal believes in conflict and dichotomies, he refuses to credit the black and white (and fundamentalist Christian) conception of good and evil. Like the Charon of Greek mythology, ferrying the dead across the River Styx to the afterlife, Dyal is leads past the boundary of art for art's sake toward his more primitive and all-encompassing vision. Through Sept. 15 at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art

1 comment:

  1. "I saw this picture in the school library where someone's face was all made up of fruits and vegetables," my son said. "Would be cool to have one of those in my room."
    He and I searched for art about "vegetables" in and immediately found this one,, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, which fits the bill to the nearest pear.