Paul Chan’s landmark 2003 digital animation Happiness (finally) after 35,000 years of civilization draws on the themes and iconography of one of Chicago’s most celebrated self-taught artists, Henry Darger. The Block Museum presents the monumental video installation in its Alsdorf Gallery during Fall 2018.
On October 4, Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator for Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery in Washington, visited the Block to situate Chan’s approach to Darger within a longer history of the changing relationship between modern and self-taught art, which she explored in her landmark exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art (touring to LACMA in November 2018). Block exhibition co-curator Jim Hodge, Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Northwestern, then reflected on these distinctions in an era when new media platforms have eroded the boundaries of what constitutes avant-garde and folk art. Block Media Arts Curator and exhibition co-curator Michael Metzger joined Cooke and Hodge to address the key themes of narrative and social transformation that bind Chan and Darger.