By Mikolaj Puszcaza-Szydlowski
I had the opportunity to visit “At Home With Monsters”, an art exhibit that is traveling around the country. This exhibit, about Mexican film maker Guillerme del Torro, is currently on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
In terms of writing, one may look at Guillermo del Toro’s exhibition as a perfect narrative text: a fascinating collision of text, image and event. It is neither sufficient, nor proper, to treat the occasion, as only one of the aforementioned; as far as a critic should be concerned, all three not only contain a key to understanding, but expose a certain incompleteness, of del Toro’s project.
We are not to learn a certain lesson or even be exposed to artwork associated with a specific movement or period. Instead, we are invited on a tour of the creator’s imagination.
Here the author shows us the wide spectrum of his influence, ranging from the post-Apocalyptic painters of the last couple of decades to del Toro’s own, fascinating conceptual art, prepared for his films as well as his highly aesthetic personal notebooks, showing a charismatic combination of a rich fantasy and a precision associated with so many masters of their trade.
Somewhere there, del Toro is playing a game of chess with us, except the pawns are abject creatures from the Underworld, the knights are Riders of the Apocalypse, the bishops are blind shamans from archaic tribes, the rooks torture chambers of deluded Celt tribe leaders and the King and Queen together, once and for all, rule their Empire of Darkness. There is a brief acknowledgement, of the other, “beautiful” and “angelic” side of things, but del Toro doesn’t care for it much at all. He recognizes that the morbid and the grotesque is just the other side of things, where opportunities for those very often left voiceless (del Toro is very proud both of his Hispanic identity, as well as his Catholic upbringing) very often arise.
Like del Toro’s creatures from the underworld, many of us are left outside of the main discussion, not fitting the standards of an extremely hermetic and self-centered, ruling system of belief.
An aesthetic experience can be found in its prime, at the MIA exhibition: if one is ready to face their own insecurities and fears at face value, the monstrous and abject can prove moving and delicate. As a character of a Russian masterpiece of cinema once put it, “It’s not this place. It’s us.”