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Ackland Art Museum’s ‘Spectacular of Vernacular’ full of charm

The Ackland Art Museum will host an opening reception for the new show "The Spectacular of Vernacular" tonight from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The show examines the role of the vernacular in modern and contemporary artists. This piece is found art found by Jim Shaw and is a part of his collection titled "Paintings Found in Oist Thrift Store." He has titled it "Two Girls in Pink Dresses."

The Ackland Art Museum has successfully presented the beauty behind contemporary themes in its most recent exhibition, “The Spectacular of Vernacular.”

The show captures what it means to combine art and the vernacular. The subjects are commonplace, but the meanings are full of rustic, odd charm.

Rather than follow a set sequence for viewing the pieces, patrons can wander between galleries. This both makes the exhibition feel like a road trip adventure and leaves room for confusion about how to best digest the art.

Marc Swanson’s sculpture “(Untitled) Looking Back Buck” is a shimmering bust of a buck that is the exhibition’s signature piece. Light dances off hundreds of tiny rhinestones, and the shining black eyes practically pierce the soul.

Like many of the show’s works, Swanson’s piece is autobiographical. The sculpture represents the intersection of his two masculine identities — hunting as a young boy in New England and his later involvement with the music and gay scene in San Francisco.

Many of the show’s artists use photography to explore their pasts.

Lorna Simpson’s photo collections “LA ’57 – NY ’09” and “1957-2009 Interior #1” examine home movies and photography and the ritual of posing before a camera.

To create the series, Simpson purchased an old photo album from the 1950s and then reenacted the self-portraits. The originals and reenactments are displayed side by side in a tiled matrix.

One of the most captivating works of the show, the series is at first glimpse a simple display of a photo album. But once examined, the piece reveals the peculiar vulnerability one feels before a lens.

William E. Jones’ video montage “Killed” is a fast-moving sequence of glimpses of negatives that were never printed by the Farm Security Administration in the Library of Congress.

The photos were taken in Southern towns during the 1930s. A punched hole blights each photograph, marking it as unwanted for unknown reasons.

The minimal nature of these photos wildly contrasts the work of Lari Pittman, whose interpretation of commercial culture, “A Decorated Chronology of Insistence and Resignation #30,” is an overwhelming conglomeration of glitter, provocative colors and loud words on an 83-by-160-inch canvas. The raucously sexual piece embodies consumerism and dominates the gallery.

“The Spectacular of Vernacular” comes off as a deluge of images and art forms, but that is essentially the point — coming to realize that the vernacular is eminent, no matter the medium.

The chaos is part of the show’s allure, straying away from high art’s meticulously planned-out placement in galleries and immersing oneself into the charm of regional, folkloric culture.

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