Friday, October 28, 2005

Scary Art Open Thread

In honor of my favorite and quickly approaching holiday:

Whether the infamous painting in the attic in Oscar Wilde's cautionary tale The Portrait of Dorien Gray (Ivan Albright's version frightening The Art Institute of Chicago visitors in 1945 seen at right) or one of Francis Bacon's screaming pontifs, whether one of Cindy Sherman's freaky assemblages of discordant body parts or Bank Violette's burnt out church, there are certainly images that qualify as "scary art." Of course in the über-jaded collective consciousness of the New York Art world, most folks, if asked, would respond that, say, Thomas Kincaid makes the scariest "art" work out there, but let you inner child push that urge aside and tell me: what work (any medium) considered "art" do you find most frightful?


Anonymous Kriston said...

Tom Friedman!

10/28/2005 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

LOL. I see this idea is at least a year old!

You know a medium is no longer bleeding edge when it starts offering re-runs.

10/28/2005 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I've always loved Halloween and consider this day to be an aesthetic inspiration for all lovers of Kitsch. But to the matter at hand; "art" that I find frightful (in a good way). At the top of the list, I would nominate Arnulf Rainer, the Austrian visual artist known for his brilliant death masks, cadaveri, and self portraits. Rainer makes Freddy Kruger look...well.., almost wholesome.

Otto Dix, an artist that spent a lot of time at the front in world WWI, is also a contender. I saw a devastating exhibition in Berlin of his etchings of trench warfare. Anyone who has spent time viewing this astounding, visceral work is forever changed. His painting, " Trench Warfare" is hair rising.

10/28/2005 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

If I'm, oh, running the Met today... the Euphronios is the scariest.

10/28/2005 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Anything Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes or Madusa

10/28/2005 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Kriston said...

So long as someone's taking the Halloween duties!

Charles Long's sculpture has a Beetlejuice feel to it.

10/28/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Those Long sculptures are amazing! Loved that exhibition.

Tyler, why is the Met's Euphronios scary?

10/28/2005 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Judson said...

Ever since I was young, Goya - Saturn Devouring His Son has always scared me.

10/28/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Hmmm...this is actually a toughie for me.

I spent some time thinking about this seemingly simple open question and I've concluded that I've never been scared by art, or even spooked. I admire the Otto Dix works mentioned by Nancy - they are meditative and disturbing - but there was no "fright" involved. Carravaggio is among my early heros but I find his painting too sensuous, too formal in their restrained violence or passion, to be scary.

I tried to think of some "creepy" pieces, but growing up in the rural South one inherits a taste for the macabre. I spent many afternoons playing in family graveyards behind abandoned houses and my NYC studio and apartment hold many bleached bones, taxidermied animals and preserved spcimen jars. As a result, I'm more prone to experiencing a good fright when dealing with kitsch, b-movie froth. Thinking about this, I wish a bunch of artists would get together and put on a really amazing Haunted House/Trail in some abandoned New York space. Those are a blast!

10/28/2005 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

A painting I saw in Belgium of a saint being flayed alive. I nearly threw up and have continued wondering why art history books show the Virgin and Child and the arrows piercing St what's his name, but the saints being flayed and their eyes poked out are not. Until you see them, you don't understand Christianity. And Halloween taps into that aspect of Christianity. Or did until the costume and candy industries took over.

10/28/2005 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said... it now...

10/28/2005 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Sky Pape said...

Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Son" has always topped my creep-out list.

10/28/2005 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A response to Hungry Hyena about fright... it seems that we are all too uber urbane, and far too overexposed to decades of intrusive stimulation that it takes something truly abominable to admit fear. I like Kitsch, but bad taste doesn't really frighten me. The politics of Kitsch is scary... the controlled leakage of exclusive taste to the masses; diluted as acceptable lowbrow culture.

I grew up in Brooklyn, I live in the South now. People here love paintings of lighthouses,their pets,rural landscapes, etc. It's scary, but I've come to accept that I am an alien, and the chasm of aesthetic understanding is unbridgeable.

10/28/2005 06:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

oops, I'm anonymous! Nancy

10/28/2005 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

It used to be Francis Bacon, but now it's just about anything by Cy Twombly. Who BTW is also one of my absolute all-time favorite artists. (I live in Houston and visit the Menil every chance I get). I don't know if it's fear as such, but something about it gets under my skin. It might be an ADD thing.

When I see his insane chalkboard scrawls, or his large canvases which look like huge phone notebook pads covered with childlike scratches, or those which juxtapose murderous primitivism with high-educational references, setting up some strange cross-brain resonances, I think about my fingernail grip on sanity in this information-overloaded world and think, "there but for the grace of god go I."

10/28/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous LA Artist said...

There's a show at 31Grand in Williamsburg where old tv monitors are turned into pumpkin heads. That may not be as scary as some of the art listed but it's a great recycling idea.

10/28/2005 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Juxtapose art's horrors in your mind for greater effect.

For example, imagining the woman with the horrifying neck injury in this painting:

-- in a passionate relationship with this zombie guy:

-- is likely to leave you feeling like this guy:

10/28/2005 07:24:00 PM  
Anonymous jc said...

I might call this more "spooky" than scary, but all I know is that it really freaked me out when I saw it: Ron Mueck's "Dead Dad." You can see it at:


10/28/2005 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous JL said...

Most of the Albright's I've seen have been pretty spooky.

I got a shiver from Duchamp's Hat Rack at the Art Institute of Chicago. I jumped when I first noticed it hanging from the ceiling in the galleries, hovering overhead like a big spider or something. That first experience can never be quite replicated, showing it (like most "shocking" things) to be a bit of a gimmick, but a good one. And away from the gimmick side, when seeing it again it does continue to implicate one's body, and have a creepy sort of sinuousness, that make it effective. It's not simply a matter of hanging in the air, either - Jim Lambie's Eyelash pieces, for instance, don't give off the same feeling at all.

10/29/2005 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Hans Bellmer's dolls.

10/29/2005 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

Hirschhorn's laundrette frightens me... but not in a particularly halloweeny fashion.

The video loop with the peeling face next to the french fries is a bit too much for me.

And I'm not sure if this counts as fine art, but GG Allen always scared the crap out of me in a Chuck Manson sort of way. I felt a bit more at ease the day I read he had passed away.

10/30/2005 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous JL said...

Actually, what's really scary is how close that woman's elbow is to the Albright painting in the photograph. Step back, for the love of god, step back!

10/30/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger spanglemaker said...

The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Salvador Dali. I saw this as a kid in my parent's art history book and it just creeped me out. Something about the spidery legs of the elephants.

10/30/2005 09:53:00 PM  
Anonymous If beauty is our reality said...

I think most art scary. Think! What have we done with it?
Usually, though, one references scary through the implication of scary motifs.
Once you get used to the scary motif I WONDER WHERE THE scare is?
Does anyone know the original scare or if it's just a myth?
Once-upon-a-time people had the idea that art scared people who were afraid of it.

10/31/2005 09:31:00 AM  

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