Artists these days are encouraged and expected to be professional and businesslike, minus neuroses and drama queenery, but odd behavior has always been associated with creativity and tolerated, since, well prehistory. Rudolf and Margot Wittkower's Born Under Saturn, for example, describes one obsessive Italian Renaissance painter who never left his work, subsisting on nothing but hardboiled eggs that he hauled up to his studio in a basket.
Tim Sharman's huge installation is a mirthful meditation on such inspired madness. His premise: the Doof, a Goofyish cartoon figure — Doggie Diner's canine chef crossed with Disney/Fleischer critter-humans — has inspired and maddened artists throughout history, and the artifacts produced by this inspiration are gathered in the Doof Museum of Culture and History, temporarily located at Studio Quercus. The faux-museum idea has been around for a while, as Clayton Bailey fans who remember Dr. Gladstone's Museum of Wonders can attest, but Sharman makes this now-familiar concept work drolly, mixing his work (Tim Sharman, American, 1959- ) with that made by friends and family, their nationalities and birth dates provided in the best museological fashion, and that of imaginary artists, Faustian victims like Lovecraft's or Poe's doomed intellectuals. A few examples of Doof-betrunkener menschen (Doof-obsessed men): Tommaso Cavillero (Maltese 1590-1623), beheaded by outraged Knights of Malta for his blasphemous painting, Adoration of the Doof ; T.L. Douveres (1862-1942), who, struck by lightning, began seeing "the Doof as fruit on the trees, birds in the air and small woodland creatures who inhabited carefully painted California inspired landscapes," and desisted from his visionary painting only after realizing that he was Napoleon, bent on conquering Europe; and Clyde Darrow (American, 1902-1981), like Douveres, a patient at Arkham (!) Asylum whose "hauntingly apocalyptic paintings ... sometimes frightened the staff doctors," until 1961, that is, when the hospital installed television sets and his visions faded; and the artist and poet, T.S. Sharton, who thought the smiling faces he saw "mocked him and drained him of his humanity" and left poems stacked to the ceiling at his death. Nor should we forget, either, the genius-chimp artist, Bananas (American 1920-1965), "the four-foot-tall Rembrandt," who made "drawing after drawing, extremely sophisticated for someone without opposable thumbs."
This show is as much about Onion-worthy writing as it is objets d'art, so glancers and glimpsers will miss much of the fun. (A catalogue with a mock-academic essay by Jamie Brunson is available.) Strange Oddities: Selections from the Doof Museum of Culture and History runs through October 28 at Studio Quercus (385 26th St., Oakland). StudioQuercus.com or 510-452-4670
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