Exhibit Review: Wes Anderson’s ‘Bad Dads’

Many film viewers love to hate Wes Anderson. His distinctive, hands-on approach to modern filmmaking is oftentimes tied together with themes of extreme loyalty and violent antipathy within the realms of companionship and the human condition. To some, it’s a bit too cliche–regurgitating motifs that date back to the storytelling of fairy tale writers like Hans Christian Andersen. Yet, to others, the films propel narratives that forwardly influence their own life perspectives and art.

For the past six years, the Spoke Art Gallery troupe has been joined by dozens of creatives who’ve taken inspiration from the cinematic maestro, constructing original pieces derivative of the Oscar-winner’s repertoire for a weekend, pop-up gallery every year.

This year’s Bad Dads VI welcomed over 70 international artists into the walls of New York City’s Joseph Gross Gallery with the sole intent of paying homage to the indie cinema revivalist. Each sold-out viewing indulged Anderson obsessives to various mediums, which included paintings, illustrations, sculptures, prints, and even that infamous Scalamandre wallpaper seen in basically every one of the filmmaker’s blockbuster hits.

All participating artists were free to choose from any Anderson film for subject matter, resulting in a wooing range of character portraits, intricately detailed environments, or iconic themes and styles that were prominent in each of Anderson’s films.

The space, which embodied the expected, atypical color wheel of nostalgia that is Wes Anderson, speared patrons into a dazed, unresponsive-like feeling only paired by the hustle and bustle surrounding individual pieces. The vivacious, dark-humored and iconic world of Anderson’s films made leeway through certain creatives, who further punned on the naivety of certain classic scenes, like the marriage of youngsters Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky from 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Like Anderson’s films, the work presented hosted a wittingly stylized, almost verging on dreamlike air. In every other piece, there was an overwhelmingly sincere and genuine charm exuding from the re-imaging of certain outcomes within dialogues and/or plots. The appropriated art essentially reinvented movie storylines, causing cult-like fanatical fans to exasperate, or even beg for more possibilities. Nonetheless, some creatives stuck to the readily recognizable assets of Anderson’s films, like his signature whimsical costumes and striking makeup choices. In the end, who hasn’t always wanted to personify Margot Tenenbaum’s garish fur coat and heavy eyeliner as seen in The Royal Tenenbaums? That’s what I thought.

Photo courtesy of Spoke Art Gallery.

Bad Dads is ultimately tipping its hat to the many oddball paternal forces that have populated Anderson’s oeuvre. It’s hard to dissociate comedic great Bill Murray from his less-than-steady fatherly roles in both Anderson’s Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; let’s not even get started on the misfortunes that M. Gustave wearyingly encountered in the filmmaker’s latest hit The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Captivating a true sense of what it means to be manic–but passing as a sane being–Bad Dads VI makes you question how pleasing life would be if it mirrored Wes Anderson’s aesthetic.

Feature photo courtesy of Spoke Art Gallery.

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