“The exhibition is about great art and a singular place in the American imagination.”
— Curator Robin Jaffee
With its new show, “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., dives into the oceanfront playground’s role as a muse to painters, photographers, filmmakers and other artists. The museum calls the show the first one dedicated solely to art about Coney Island and the largest museum exhibition to focus entirely on the entertainment mecca in Brooklyn, N.Y. It opens Jan. 31 before starting a three-city U.S. tour.
“There has been nothing that takes people through the ages literally from Coney Island’s beginnings,” said curator Robin Jaffee Frank, who has been working on the show for the past five years. “The exhibition is about great art and a singular place in the American imagination.”
“Such sexually suggestive forms of pleasure mixed voyeurism, exhibitionism and public humiliation into an addictive modern cocktail.”
— Curator Robin Jaffee, Frank, in a catalog essay
Ms. Frank, a Brooklyn native who visited Coney Island often as a child, vividly recalls being terrified by sights like the Cyclops head that hung at the Spook-A-Rama, a 1950s thrill ride that took passengers under a blood-red waterfall and past horror figures.
She grew increasingly fascinated by art about the landmark over her more than two decades at the Yale University Art Gallery, where she became senior associate curator of American paintings and sculpture in 2006. She brought her research for the show with her when the Wadsworth Atheneum hired her as chief curator in 2011. The Yale University Art Gallery is the exhibit’s biggest lender. Read the rest of this entry »