The Scariest Exhibit Ever: the Clown Painting, Re-interpreted


Why would you base an entire exhibition around a visual image that strikes fear in the hearts of many? (There’s a name for it in fact, coulrophobia.)

That’s what we asked Bruce Helford of Los Angeles’s Corey Helford Gallery whose current show Clowns! — which features work from up-and-coming artists like Gary Baseman, Shag, Tokidoki, Colin Christian, Dave Kinsey, Chris Anthony, Natalia Fabia, Buff Monster, Joe Ledbetter, Audrey Kawasaki, D*Face, Chloe Early, Word To Mother, and Will Barras — makes us want to cry.

As the creator of the short-lived TV series Freddie, he’s probably used to fielding that type of question. His response after the jump.

“People are definitely divided between the ‘Oh my God, a clown! Run!’ camp and the ‘Clowns are fun!’ camp. I think it’s the what’s-going-on-behind-the-crazy-make-up feeling that freaks people out because the smile or frown is painted on and we can’t really read their faces for emotional cues. That said, I think most people can differentiate between real clowns and clown art and they’ll enjoy the contemporary take on clowns in our show. The others probably won’t come in.

“The impetus to do a clown show was that we’ve been experimenting with the crossover between Americana and the new genre of underground/lowbrow/pop surrealist/however you describe it art. The iconic imagery all comes from the same pop culture base and clowns were a huge part of pop culture imagery — paintings, glass sculptures, lamps, toys — in the ’50s and ’60s. Most of the fascination came from childhood memories of a time when circuses were bigger and more frequent in our lives. The beauty and pathos and grotesquerie of the clown face is a terrific place for artists to play and we knew that a lot of the major artists in the scene would want to tackle it. So we sent the word out and here we are.”

Clowns! opens this Saturday night and is on view at Corey Helford through November 29th.