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Max Guy Built a Yellow Brick Road from Chicago to the Land of Oz

The exhibition “But Tell Me, Is It a Civilized Country?” is the results of Max Guy’s deep dive into the Land of Oz, a territory the self-deprecating Witch of the North described as uncivilized as a result of it harbors wizards and witches like her. The exhibition title—really, the witch’s query to Dorothy about Kansas from the primary Oz e-book, printed in Chicago in 1900—brings to thoughts the racist and felony inhospitalities of current occasions, from Texas and Arizona governors’ callous shuttling of migrants north to Donald Trump’s query about why the United States would need immigrants from “shithole countries.”

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For Guy, Oz is a mirror. In an artist discuss when the present opened on the Renaissance Society in Chicago, he in contrast the interrelated Oz literature and movies to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as one self-perpetuating franchise. Two keystones of this franchise, The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Wiz (1978), play facet by facet in Guy’s silent video The City and the City, sixth reduce (2022). The first effort options an Emerald City that feels at occasions like Chicago whereas the later rendition includes many New York filming places. (Guy’s connection right here: he grew up in New York and is now based mostly in Chicago.) In its time, The Wiz suffered by the hands of white critics who questioned the necessity for revisiting Oz with Black actors, a brand new script, and new songs. Guy’s video suggests his personal research of the adjustments. He has slowed down each movies and performs them to finish at exactly the identical time, as if to placed on equal footing Motown and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, an all-white solid and an all-Black one, and Dorothy as performed by Judy Garland and by Diana Ross.

Max Guy: The City and the City, sixth reduce, 2022, single channel video, 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 35 seconds.

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Guy’s cultural critique via juxtaposition continues in Emerald City Leperello (Featuring Pointless Rendering by Lorenzo Bueno), 2022, which stands open on a desk on the heart of the gallery. The pages of the enormous e-book comprise eight classic copies of a poster displaying the Chicago skyline; the poster promoted a 1989 exhibition by which the Renaissance Society paired 24 of On Kawara’s deadpan “Date Paintings” with contemporaneous works by 24 artists, from heavyweights with minimalist and conceptual leanings, reminiscent of Jenny Holzer and Joseph Kosuth, to these related to the Windy City, together with the Hairy Who. At the time, this exhibition might have appeared far-reaching and consultant for placing Kawara in dialogue with friends and native traditions, however looking back, the curatorial conceit seems unique. The artists had been virtually all white, and at the moment are mainstream. Guy added a harlequin-pattern border and yellow, inexperienced, and black architectonic types to the exhibition posters, making the cityscape look extra just like the Emerald City and implying that Kawara and the opposite artists might stand within the place of Dorothy and her well-known touring buddies—Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Whom would an artist select to accompany them on the Yellow Brick Road as they create imagined worlds? Who is solid to stroll beside them? If Guy had touring companions, they could embrace the artist Lorenzo Bueno (talked about within the e-book’s title), whose Pointless Rendering (2018) is a part of a whimsical proposal to construct an upside-down duplicate of New York’s Citigroup Center constructing proper on prime of the particular construction on Lexington Avenue. We can think about that Guy likes how this ambitious-but-impossible proposition performs with monumentality and implies an alternate universe.

A detail shot shows one "page" of an artist's book made of one vintage exhibition poster that has been painted over in green and blue hues.

Max Guy: Emerald City Leperello (that includes Pointless Rendering by Lorenzo Bueno) (element), 2022, acrylic ink, laser print, enamel paint, and coloured pencil on classic On Kawara posters, cotton material, chipboard.

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Another form of inversion occurs when viewers look as much as see a big, multicolored flag draped throughout the immense ceiling of the Renaissance Society. It’s referred to as Dargerino (2022) and intends to summon and maybe commune with Henry Darger, the legendary Chicago outsider artist who labored alone in a tiny residence, generally underneath the affect of Oz, and was undiscovered till the final yr of his life. The flag’s colours characterize the areas of Oz, although the flag provides an additional level to the same old Emerald City star, making it extra just like the six-point stars of the Chicago flag. What if Chicago had been Oz? Or, what if we made Chicago right into a type of Oz? Guy proposes that we’d then have to tell apart significant gestures from small smug ones. In his artist discuss, when discussing Dargerino, Guy referred to the colossal torn American flag sculpture Trinket (2008/15) by William Pope.L, who advised Artforum that his sculpture refers to “our mouse nature” and “how we blot out the sky with our paw and think we’ve vanquished the sun.”

Chicagoans dye their river vibrant inexperienced yearly on St. Patrick’s Day. Guy captured this weird custom on video for Chicago (2022). In the context of this exhibition, the festivities seem so completely out of this world that they may virtually have taken place in Emerald City. In so some ways, we mortals create and re-create extremely developed worlds, decide their unusual rituals and unique memberships, and exalt them. In The Wiz, the denizens of Emerald City extol inexperienced as the peak of style till The Great and Powerful Oz declares inexperienced lifeless, and endorses purple. “I wouldn’t be seen green,” the refrain sings. By bringing Oz into the current, Guy’s sensible present prompts the query: With the forcefulness of the collective creativeness that we commonly show and generally shift on the drop of a hat, how can we reimagine, stand on finish, and remake the careless, tough, stained, and unwelcoming components of our world?



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