Wednesday 19 July 2017

Edward M. Goméz on Hyperallergic about EUGENE VON BRUENCHENHEIN

EUGENE VON BRUENCHENHEIN, untitled, 1940s, silver gelatin print, Courtesy Delmes & Zander

An Artist Couple’s Domestic Gesamtkunstwerk
 Edward M. Goméz on Hyperallergic (July 8, 2017)

The outsider artist Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and his wife, Marie, created a miniature universe in their bungalow in a Milwaukee suburb.

SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin — Mythologies: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, a new exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (on view through January 14, 2018), showcases one of the most intriguing bodies of work by an artist of the modern era to be found anywhere today.

The way an artist conjures up a universe of his own, and how his aesthetic vision informs such creativity, are as much the subjects of this compelling survey as any of the peculiar paintings, photographs, and objects on display.
Mythologies is one in a series of exhibitions collectively titled The Road Less Traveled that the museum is mounting this year to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The JMKAC is one of the best-known museums in the world specializing in the study and presentation of works, many of which are site-specific environments, made by self-taught artists. Mythologies traces the development of a clever autodidact whose creative audacity appeared to have been his saving grace: despite the humbleness and hardships of Von Bruenchenhein’s life circumstances, he dared to think big — about himself and his art.

Perhaps it’s that whiff of grandiloquence in Von Bruenchenhein’s sense of himself as a thinker and creative agent, which comes across in his writings and to varying degrees in his art, that have endeared his multifaceted oeuvre to aficionados of outsider art. At the same time, now that the unbridled energy and weirdness of much of what he crafted appear to have been postmodernist avant la lettre, Von Bruenchenhein’s work has earned critical, crossover praise and won many admirers in the mainstream, contemporary-art establishment. The eccentric from Wisconsin who made sculptures with chicken bones and nudie-fantasy photos of his wife is now a bonafide art-world star.

Edward Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910–1983) was born in northeastern Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan’s western shore. (Later his family moved south to the Milwaukee suburbs.) The second of three sons, Eugene was seven when his mother died. His father remarried, and his stepmother, whose interests were artistic, literary and intellectual, provided inspiration for the boy’s creative pursuits.
After graduating from high school, Eugene found employment in a florist’s shop and later worked for many years in a commercial bakery. In 1943, he married the former Eveline Kalka (whom he renamed “Marie”), but even though his father gave his son and his new bride the Von Bruenchenhein family’s small house, the couple remained chronically poor. It was in their nondescript bungalow in a Milwaukee suburb that Eugene spent decades developing a rich, imaginary realm of larger-than-life self-expression over which he and Marie presided. (...)

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