Brian McCutcheon’s “Out of This World”

Sometimes art just isn’t fun enough. Although, I’m a museum enthusiast in the greatest sense no one is immune to “museum fatigue.” Museum fatigue is that feeling of apathetic exhaustion behind your knees and between your temples. You get it somewhere after the entrance and before lunch right after reaching your tolerance of appreciating art. After this point, you could see the most influential piece of ever constructed and pass it up for a nap or a latte. It’s understandable that art viewing can sometimes become laborious, but Out of This World by Brian McCutheon breaks that pattern with an authentically youthful and energizing exhibition.

Out of this World opened at the IMA in September. McCutheon’s son, Angus, is an obvious and crucial reference through out the body of work. Even when a piece doesn’t focus directly on Angus his sense of wonder is present, making this exhibition extremely approachable and a “must-see” for curious children and adults alike.

A stream of aluminum tubing blasts from the IMA’s foyer and twists it’s way to Out of the World‘s galley on the third floor, illustrating the jet stream hot off a rocket. The space enjoys a giant satellite, orbit-ready pod and over-sized balloons. Much of these works are large, glossy and finished with an undeniable wonderment. It translates a feeling of staring at the night sky in the 1950’s or rummaging through a toy chest.

The exhibition makes fun of itself in the best ways. The first room holds a collection of distorted portraits. As if McCutheon got a hold of the world’s best fun house mirrors. These pictures are well done, weird and generally laughter inducing. The video “Donut” depicts Angus eating a donut, in a car doing donuts and is played in a loop. The third room features more photographs of the artist in a full space suit completing mundane tasks. We see him grocery shopping or in a furniture store, navigating what now seems like an alien landscape or an earth without air. The laughs kept coming.

It all had a lot to do with weirdness. I began questioning what really is alien and by the gallery’s exit I didn’t have a clear answer. The images of spacemen driving station wagons and testing recliners fades into normalcy. I realized that for someone a spacesuit is just a uniform for her or his job. (albeit the coolest uniform conceivable) I think that people are afraid of weirdness and the alien. But this exhibition made eccentricities undeniably approachable and made outer space seem nearby.

I don’t know whether McCutheon’s references were intended to make the viewer question how foreign our worlds really are or if he’s just seen Coneheads too many times; but the medley of rocket ships and depictions of Angus made the experience more like playing with toys than viewing art. The exhibition is fun, uplifting, thought provoking and made me disappointed that more art is not this easily enjoyable.