Monday, February 28, 2011

Baby Cried the Day the Circus Came to Town


"New Shrine Circus Fun Amusement Park," Raymond Thunder-Sky, marker on cardstock

"I Want to Be the One with the Most Cake," Bill Ross, acrylic on canvas

"Ringling Bro and Barnum & Bailey" poster

"Will You Say Good Things About Us?" Eric Ruschman, oil and enamel on MDF panel

"Baby cried the day the circus came to town," sings Melissa Manchester in that beautifully cheesy late-70s pop song "Don't Cry Out Loud."  And that mix of melodrama and spectacle gives the idea of "the circus" a sort of David-Lynch exoticism:  surrealism born from innocence and seediness, transient people and caged beasts.  There's a couple of exhibitions coming up this month in town that pay homage (one intentionally, one not so) to this strange spectacle and the need to contain it elegantly and painstakingly in visual art. 

"It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This: New Paintings by Eric Ruschman"  opens March 4, 2011 at Aisle Gallery (424 Findley Street 3rd Floor, Cincinnati, Ohio) and surveys the newest works by Ruschman, a Cincinnati-based artist who seems to be on a safari for storybook perfection:  shiny surfaces, frighteningly vivid colors, simple, plush imagery.  His paintings and other works imply a frozen carnival of the mind, porcelain-precious but also eerily alive.  The title of the show, as well, allows for the innocent imagery and the methodical attention to detail to combine into a narrative of leaving for some far-off adventure.  Like maybe joining the circus. 

"The Amazing American Circus Poster" at the Cincinnati Art Museum spotlights the wit and cagey intelligence behind circus posters created in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  80 posters make up the exhibit, and the richness both of imagery and composition comprise a catalog of functional elegance and dreamy nostalgia, like a beautiful scrapbook of hidden Americana.  As part of the Art Museum's Family First Saturday program, Thunder-Sky, Inc. co founder Bill Ross will be talking about his colorful, animal-centric works, which are bizarre, twitchy great grandchildren to the straight-forward design and splash of the circus posters.  He'll also talk a little about Raymond Thunder-Sky and his work -- and Raymond's deification of all things circus (March 5, 2011, 1 to 4).