Artweek, 01. November 2000
'THE DARKER SIDE OF PLAYLAND: CHILDHOOD IMAGERY FROM THE LOGAN COLLECTION' AT SFMOMA
Celebrating 30 Years
In 'The Darker Side of Playland', the endearing cuteness of beloved toys and
cartoon characters turns menacing and monstrous. Much of the work has the quality
of childhood nightmares. In those dreams, long before any adult understanding
of the specific pains and evils that live holds, the familiar and comforting
objects and images of a child's world are rent with something untoward. For
children, not understanding what really to be afraid of, these dreams portend
some pain and disturbance lurking into the landscape.
Perhaps nothing in the exhibition exemplifies this better than Gottfried Helnwein's
'Mickey'. His portrait of Disney's favotite mouse occupies an entire wall of
the gallery; rendered from an oblique angle, his jaunty, ingenuous visage looks
somehow sneaky and suspicious. His broad smile, encasing a row of gleaming
teeth, seems more a snarl or leer. This is Mickey as Mr. Hyde, his hidden other
self now disturbingly revealed.
Helnwein's Mickey is painted in shades of gray, as if pictured on an old black-and-white
TV set. We are meant to be transported to the flickering edges of our own childhood
memories in a time imaginably more blameless, crime-less and guiltless.
But Mickey's terrifying demeanor hints of things to come.