Thursday, December 3, 2009


By D.E.Levine

We're breaking with tradition here at Cinefilms and covering an art show because it's such a rich and unusual show and ties in directly to film.

Most people identify Tim Burton with cinema where he has been an extremely creative and successful writer and director.

It's ironic that Burton himself didn't realize the wealth of ideas and materials that he created and accumulated until the Museum of Modern Art's assistant curator Ron Magliozzi, and the department of film's curatorial assistant Jenny He, searched through thousands of pieces of original work and chose the 700 pieces now on display in the museum's show.

There has never been a museum show on the art of Tim Burton before. This is a must see event if you're in New York City and well worth a special trip to the city if you're not already there. Many of these pieces have never been displayed anywhere before and remain in Burton's private collection.

It's safe to say there's never been a museum show quite like this and it's already so popular that getting tickets is extremely difficult.

Your admittance to the museum does not guarantee admittance to the Tim Burton exhibition. After entering the museum you must get a separate ticket for the show, and that should be the first task on your "To Do" list.

MOMA is also screening a retrospective of Burton's 14 films throughout the show which runs through April 26, 2010. Additionally, MOMA will present a series of films that influenced and/or inspired Burton.

The show displays an amazing range of creative output. Displaying a selection of poems, sketches. drawings, storyboards, paintings, puppets, maquettes, photographs, amateur films, film artifacts and other work including a topiary, the show takes us through Burton's childhood, adolescent, art school days, years as an animator at the Walt Disney Company, and years as a film writer and director.

It's obvious that Burton was a gifted if alienated and lonely child. His sense of despair is apparent in his cartoons and drawings from a young age.

Raised in Burbank, California, Burton began channeling his grief into visual art, which his family has kept and preserved all of these years.

Burton's output is prolific and somewhat astounding. His family's acknowledgment that is was important enough to retain for 40+ years is amazing.

Running through his work is the motif of the gifted but wounded child and pathetic juveniles who just "don't fit" within the mores of society (autobiographical?).

There's also the recurring theme, mixing humor with scariness, of Burton created misfits either triumphing over or succumbing to their world - a world of mediocrity. The misfits are the underdogs of society and the viewer loves to cheer for and support the underdog.

Burton himself admits to thinking things through visually from an early age, so instead of keeping a handwritten diary, he kept an art account. This is the visual, autobiographical account of his life.

In his comments to the press Burton stated that to the present day, he still keeps a running visual account which he stores, resulting in a continually growing and expanding treasure trove of original art.

He claims that until MOMA people came to his homes in the US and the UK, he himself didn't realize the enormity and richness of his collection. He also lived with much of his art on a daily basis.

In fact, he kept the original topiary from Edward Scissorhands in his garden, exposed to the elements, for years before putting it in storage.

When MOMA curators found it is was so discolored and worse for wear that they had an identical copy made from the exact materials that were used on the original.

The copy looks identical to the original and now stands proudly in MOMA's beautiful sculpture garden.

Overall, this show is an amazing first taste and representation of Burton's broad talent. We can only hope that it is the beginning of a long pop art career for Tim Burton and that he will continue to create and display his art in all disciplines.

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