Thursday, January 29, 2009

Laure Drogoul's Follies Opening @ MICA

Laure Drogoul's Follies, Predicaments and Other Conundrums opens @ MICA tomorrow, January 30th
5 - 8 pm

Curatorial Statement

Follies, Predicaments, and Other Conundrums: The Works of Laure Drogoul is the first large-scale retrospective featuring works created byMICA Rinehart School of Sculpture alumna and Baltimore-based artist Laure Drogoul ’81 over the last 25 years. It has been an exciting challenge to gather these incredibly diverse works together, in part due to size and scale, media, complexity, and ephemeral nature. To see all of Drogoul’s work at once, one cannot help but be astounded by the prolificacy and incredible energy.

While other artists of her generation and capability left art school and glommed onto the New York art scene, Drogoul decided to make Baltimore her home, ultimately establishing herself as a cornerstone in an increasingly vibrant art and music scene.

One might say that Drogoul’s work is intimately interlaced with the “essence” of Baltimore. It is hard to imagine (although not impossible, surely) the work being made in another city. The birthplace of the Ouija Board is also home to the Urological Museum as well as the gravesite of Edgar Allen Poe. It is the city of Dorothy Parker, Blaze Starr, and Johnny Eck. Operating out of a downtown row house, Drogoul embraces and revels in the accessibility of Baltimore, mines its history, studies its characters, and injects them straight into her work. Her routines are performances—extensions of her sculpture. Drogoul “spelunks” city neighborhoods and combs the hidden paths and marshes of the Chesapeake Bay, searching for weeds, pungent smells, and cast away bric-a-brac—the things that have fallen through the cracks – to enrich her world. She is a quintessential Baltimorean: a maximalist, obsessive collector and medium to the spooky, seedy, and freakish aesthetic one can only find here. In the late 1980s, Drogoul established The 14Karat Cabaret in a downtown Baltimore basement bar. Under the umbrella of Maryland Art Place and modeled after the pre-wartime European cabarets of the ‘20s and early ‘30s, The 14Karat Cabaret is an arena of free-form expression barely rivaled in other, much larger cities. For nearly 25 years, Drogoul has operated, emceed, and curated the popular monthly event. From the clean and austere, to the glitzy, dirty, and gutter-soaked, The 14Karat Cabaret is, in essence, an appendage of Laure Drogoul and an obvious accompaniment to the work presented in this exhibition.

Drogoul’s vision is sprawling and labyrinthine – peppered with outrageous cartoons, drag queens and otherworldly characters. The work is abundant in puns and puzzles, and infected with sublime and subversive humor. Her “roadside attraction” follies are clever embodiments and critiques of humanity. Drogoul is part scientist and part soothsayer. She is lowbrow absurdist as well as high art feminist and Dadaist. The common thread woven throughout this installation is not just the performative element but the overarching interactivity of the works: communication with earthworms, creation of cacophonic soundscapes while knitting, mapping hometown smells on a giant interactive world map. By engaging in these communal “experiments” the participants become the creators of the work and open the door to a multitude of surprises. Like all great art experiences, as we meander through the freakish, garish, and supernatural; as we interact with earthly and non-earthly delights and visit other realms; we come across a path that serves as a conduit to the core of Drogoul’s work: the examination of the human condition, in all its fragility and beauty. It is extremely appropriate that MICA and Baltimore are host to Follies, Predicaments, and Other Conundrums: The Works of Laure Drogoul and I am personally very excited and honored to bring together this collection of her work at MICA. I am also extremely grateful to the students in MICA’s Exhibition Development Seminar and for the generosity of each mentor that has committed his or her time and knowledge. It is through their energy and ownership that this project was realized.

- Gerald Ross, Director of Exhibitions, Maryland Institute College of Art