Uncle With Boy

(Uncle With Boy)
Found 02/2012, Goodwill (2222 and Lamar)

Widely described as “unsettling” by patrons of the museum, (Uncle With Boy)  subtly distorts our expectations of a family image to create an ominous, threatening tone on several levels without an overt sense of danger.

02-2012GW222Uncle4The setting of (Uncle) is deliberately vague. The posed nature of the two subjects suggests that it may be a driveway or garage, although the seamless transition from shadow to the suggestion of a cushion or stool creates a disorienting sense of space and mass, as if the two are seated on a fold in the pavement itself. Without the context of location or perspective, the car itself becomes a potential danger, an apparition out of a yellow color field that may or may not carry motion and inertia. Even the position of the two subjects seems unstable–the shading, cast by a light more focused and directional than that of the car, pulls them out of place and onto a precarious perch.

Details of the two subjects intensify the subtle, alien tone of the image. The distorted arm of the “Uncle” character seems broken, and the artist has covered the faces of both elder and child in gray highlights, particularly around the mouth, giving both subjects a skull-like grimace, an effect heightened by the child’s deep-set eyes and slouching, agentless pose.

When this picture was acquired in 1995, the Museum briefly featured a weekend family tour, during which (Uncle With Boy)  was removed from the gallery wall. Since then, our understanding of this remarkable piece and the greater world of therapeutic art has been refined, and the Archive of Therapeutic Endeavor is left off all the Museum’s guided tours entirely.

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