This Woodcut Exhibit Is Just Too Quirky to Miss: ‘Booger Stew’
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s your chance to enjoy the downward spiral of America in art form.
Printmaker Tom Huck is the type of man who really doesn’t give a damn what you think. Case in point: The tagline for his St. Louis–based online independent printshop, Evil Prints, is “Disgusting the masses since 1995.”
Huck specializes in woodcuts. The ancient printmaking technique, which originated in China in the fifth century, flourished during the Renaissance after paper was developed, and it led to the widespread circulation of religious imagery, playing cards and postcards for the masses. Drawing comparisons to both 18th-century English printmaker William Hogarth and American cartoonist Robert Crumb, Huck has cranked out dark and comedic pieces of art with titles like The Hillbilly Kama Sutra, The Bloody Bucket and The Transformation of Brandy Baghead. Combining satire, violence and obscenity in a palatable form, Huck’s technical prowess has led to his work being permanently housed at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Huck sums up his work as being “about hillbillies doing bad shit.”
Huck’s newest piece, a monumental woodcut titled Electric Baloneyland, premieres at this year’s New York Print Week, as part of the Booger Stew: The Monumental Triptychs of Tom Huck exhibition. The three-panel, 86-by-108-inch chiaroscuro woodcut is a disturbing portrayal of America in all its Trumpisms, outlandishness and faux-carnival atmosphere. The first panel of Electric Baloneyland depicts Uncle Sam blowing his brains out with the likes of the Klan and the National Rifle Association riding Donald Trump’s wacky roller coaster. Panel two portrays a withering Lady Liberty mermaid being fish-hooked at a noodling competition. The third panel, Assasi-Nation Station, is a carnival shooting gallery with the worst dictators of the 20th century as targets. Huck likens it to a game of Whac-a-Mole. “If you hit one dictator, another one’s going to pop up in its place. Just because that’s the way it is.”
The product of four years of work, Electric Baloneyland was titled and planned way before Trump declared he was running for president, Huck notes. “But that climate was there. It really hasn’t changed that much,” he says. Huck sums up his work as being “about hillbillies doing bad shit,” and while that’s still relevant, he feels that he has moved into broader-based social commentary, with more allegory and metaphor. “It’s the suits doing bad stuff; it’s sports doing bad stuff; it’s Joe Blow on the street doing bad stuff.” Electric Baloneyland is a kind of mixture of all that: imagery that represents the downward spiral of American culture as played out at the local county fair of Huck’s childhood.
C.G. Boerner is a well-respected art dealership known for its work with major museums and private collectors worldwide since 1826. It holds several exhibitions a year, but usually the featured artists are long dead. Huck holds the honor of being the only living person to have his work shown at the gallery. The work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, an artist from America’s Gilded Age, is also showing during the New York Print Week exhibition.
“The fact that [C.G. Boerner is] giving it their stamp of approval means the world to me,” Huck says. “I want to be a part of that family tree of great social commentators through print.”
Booger Stew: The Monumental Triptychs of Tom Huck runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 22, at the C.G. Boerner gallery in Chelsea’s art district.
- Seth Ferranti Contact Seth Ferranti