Walker Art Center

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Ponies, Swans & Mondrian Thongs

By Frank Gaard

Since the late 1960s, Frank Gaard has forged a deeply personal and idiosyncratic style that borrows from classic Sunday comics such as Dick Tracy and the Katzenjammer Kids and the history of modernism as embodied in the work of artists Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrian, and philosopher-poets such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Charles Baudelaire. Combining his vibrant, highly saturated palette of deep jewel tones, unsullied pastels, and retinal fluorescents with a profound tendency toward comedic satire on an operatic scale, Gaard’s imagery borders on the iconographic. Cartoonlike faces with exaggerated features populate his paintings, as do crowned and spectacled self-portrait busts, snow shovels, devils, swans, panties, and ponies.

Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy takes a sweeping, retrospective look at the artist’s prolific career. Featuring a plethora of works, this survey at the Walker—which began collecting Gaard’s work in the 1970s—includes monumental tableaux paintings from all points along his artistic trajectory, portraits of friends and fellow Twin Cities art-world denizens, a selection of his extraordinary diaristic and at times salacious sketchbooks, and a selection from Art Police, the cult zine he published from 1974 to 1994. A raucous installation wall created exclusively for this exhibition becomes a comprehensive artwork, synthesizing all aspects of his artistic production.

To commemorate the show, his first since a 1980 Walker solo show, Gaard has selected a representative sampling of works from the exhibition and composed a few thoughts on each in his distinctive handwriting.