Three more days until Anxiety’s Edge opens in the new contemporary art gallery. The work is installed, the floors are being waxed, and the wall graphics go up tomorrow. Here is some insight into the works that you’ll see.

Within the installation, various aspects of the theme of anxiety are explored in groupings and juxtapositions of works by various artists. One theme explores man’s relationship with, as well as the darker side of, nature. In Nic Nicosia’s photograph Real Pictures #11 (pictured above) he staged a situation using children from his neighborhood as models/actors in which they set fire to a sapling tree. A girl turns and glances at the camera with an apprehensive expression about what they have just done.

Nature wreaks its own torment on humans in Elizabeth Berdann’s mixed-media work Plague, in which the face of a woman recoils in horror as she is besieged by a cloud of insects swirling around her. In Joseph Biel’s untitled drawing the naked torso of a man standing in waist-deep water is covered with insects. Gregory Crewdson’s untitled photograph shows a red fox lying dead in bushes with rotting fruit in a suburban back yard; Crewdson’s image, like Nicosia’s, is staged, and both artists question the “reality” we often associate with photography.

Another group of works explore aspects of racial stereotyping, racism and homophobia. African-American artist Kara Walker draws upon her heritage in a large print panorama that unfolds a narrative about a woman trying to escape slavery, yet portrayed in the decorative, romantic motif of 19th-century silhouettes. The late African-American painter Robert Colescott does a play on words that exposes the hypocrisy of stereotypes in Shirley Temple Black, in which the child film star Shirley Temple (who later became Mrs. Charles Black in real life) is literally black, posed in a hula skirt and lei on a beach while Bill “Bojangles” Robinson smiles in the clouds.

Two other artists, both white, make their own comments on black-related themes. Robert Arneson, well known for the humor in his sculptures, is represented by a powerful painting on canvas titled Special Assistant to the President, which depicts the oversize face of Willie Horton, the convicted felon who, while serving a life sentence for murder without the possibility of parole, was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts weekend furlough program but did not return and ultimately he committed assault, armed robbery and rape. The Horton episode happened while Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts. When Dukakis ran as the 1988 Democratic candidate for president, Willie Horton became a controversial issue during the campaign, and some felt that was a significant factor in Dukakis losing the election to George H. W. Bush.

In his drawing Snoop, Geoffrey Chadsey does a “mash-up” or blending of images he found on the Internet to create a parody of the hyper-masculinity and ostentatious dress of the rap/hip hop music scene and the anti-gay rhetoric of many of the recording artists. Chadsey, a gay man, took images of performer Snoop Dogg and combined them with images of fashion models, making a work in which Snoop has the exaggerated pose of a model in a fashion shoot, and his corn-rowed and braided hair style has been replaced by long tresses, so that he appears androgynous or perhaps in partial “drag.”

See previous posts on the process of creating Anxiety’s Edge and the new contemporary gallery:

July 28, 2011: Curator’s notes: Transformation of Gallery 27 starts next week
Aug 9, 2011: Curator’s notes: More on Gallery 27 changes
Aug 31, 2011: Curator’s notes: Update on new contemporary art gallery