by Douglas Messerli
Tim Burton (curated by Ron Magliozzi, Jenny He, and Rajendra Roy by The Museum of Modern Art, New York) / I saw the show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on October 27, 2011
By coincidence Howard and I attended a showing of the art of Tim Burton at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art just a few days before Halloween, the perfect time to take in the drawings, films, photographs, sculptures, puppets, and other artworks of the film director. Including work from the early 1970s to forthcoming work of 2012, one easily recognizes that the somewhat surreal, gothic, sci-fi, and just plain strange images of the young Burbank, California boy (born August 25, 1958), almost naturally transformed into the images Burton has used in his films, particularly in Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands. Indeed, the show includes work from all his films, both early sketches and drawings by Burton himself as well as clips, objects, and drawings by his associates that were used for and in those films. Even the Angora sweater worn by both the characters Ed Wood and Dolores Fuller in Burton's film was on view.
Do we really need a showing of over 700 objects from this filmmaker? The show is less an art presentation than it is a shrine to Burton's vision. And on the day we attended it was filled by people, some of whom looked like Burton's ghouls, starring wondrously at the walls as if witnessing images of the outsiders they see themselves to be. Personally, I felt a bit uncomfortable in the company of these works and beings—less because of the strangeness of the images and the artist's fascination with death than because of the ultimate lack of true significance. Feeling like an outsider is perhaps common to most individuals, in particular the young; but to celebrate it as Burton does, somehow makes it absolutely ordinary and, in the long run, representative of a kind of nostalgic desire for assimilation. Perhaps that is why most of Burton's figures seek what they cannot have, the placid lawns punctuated by the streets and driveways of American suburbia, the world in which I grew up, but where I never wanted to live.