University of Virginia Art Museum Exhibit ‘The Mutant Image’ Reveals Extremes of Human Possibility

February 27, 2006

February 27, 2006 — “Especially in our post-atomic, post-modern world, mutation has become almost an artistic genre,” said Stephen Margulies, curator of the special exhibition “The Mutant Image: Photographs, Prints and Drawings from the Collection.” “In a world of increasing, albeit anxious, diversity, perhaps some day each individual will be a mutation, a chimera, a new species unto itself or a viable combination of species.”

To Margulies, mutation in a work of art may be the result of deformation or re-formation caused by genetic oddity, oddity of costume or facial expression and gesture, or oddity of technique. The artist and/or subject is, in one way or another, creating a surprising new creature out of the extremes of human possibility. Margulies adds, “We humans are malleable, either voluntarily or involuntarily, hilariously, magnificently or tragically.”

“The Mutant Image” features many works of photography, a medium in which mutations or apparent mutations are especially powerful, since the photograph pretends to objectivity, Diane Arbus can make us see ordinary people as mutant, while George Hurrell or Sheila Metzner reveal to us the weirdness of extreme beauty. In addition, printmakers and graphic artists, including the most talented of comic book artists and cinematic special-effects professionals, take us to the outer limits of what may be still identifiable as human — or at least humanoid.

In addition to the artists noted above, the exhibition will contain work by Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Philippe Halsman, Nancy Burson, Joel-Peter Witkin, Nicholas Nixon, Johanna Drucker, Giuseppe Arcimboldo and Shelby Lee Adams. A few works by artists such as Al Capp and R. Crumb will be on loan from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at U.Va.

Margulies will discuss these works in his gallery talk on Saturday, March 25 at 2 p.m., in the museum. The museum is open to the public free of charge Tuesday through Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit and the U.Va. Art Museum, call (434) 924-3592 or visit the museum Web site.