Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tim Burton at the MOMA

Rarely is there an artist buried in his own niche that is able to achieve commercial success in any genre. Someone that can enchant children and terrify adults. His films range from Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Nightmare Before Christmas and Mars Attacks!. He's had tear-jerkers (Big Fish), biographies (Ed Wood), and musicals (Sweeny Todd). At only 51, Tim Burton already solidified himself as one of the most visionary, imaginative, and horrifying directors of all time.

His work is on display at the Museum of Modern Art from November 18th to April 26th. In addition to half a floor dedicated to his early sketches and short films, all of Burton's films, in addition to all of his influences, are playing during that same timeframe in the MOMA theatre.

I recently visited the museum for the exhibit and was blown away by the amount of early sketches on display. There were doodles from grade school, high school poetry, and his early short films he made with his friends. There were children's books, storyboards, and even a version of Hansel and Gretel playing in its entirety. Many of the sculptures on display were of monsters he had created in some of his sketches. Some of them were smaller than action figures, while others stretched across the room. Most had multiple eyeballs and a mouthful of razor sharp teeth. Everywhere we looked were tentacles.

From his films, we saw storyboards, sketches of characters, and even props used in the film. Johnny Depp's Edward Scissorhands towered above the props with footlong blades for fingers. In a glass container lay the straight razors from a recent throat-slicing barber film. The headless horseman's cape from Sleepy Hollow was draped over a far wall, ten feet tall.

Though we had been in the exhibit for quite some time, I felt like I could have absorbed much more. Instead, we decided to stroll through the rest of the MOMA, stumbling upon The Persistence of Memory, The Three Musicians, Starry Night, Christina's World, and Sleeping Gypsy. I was also introduced to a few great artists like Gustav Klimt and Sol LeWitt. On the top floor, there was an exhibit called Bauhaus, centered around a German design school. I think I'll go back and revisit this one, since it was almost as enthralling as Burton.

If you plan to visit New York and are looking for something to do, the Burton exhibit is on display until April. Get tickets in advance, because it's going to be crowded. Try to pick a day that's not the weekend, I'm sure it will be easier to walk around. And hell, if you're looking for someone to go with, contact me. I'd go see this again.

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