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John Dunivant : “The Expatriate Parade”

John Dunivant The Expatriate Parade

September 25, 2013 through October 12, 2013

Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 25, 6-8pm

Artist Talk:  Saturday, October 5 at 2 pm


John Dunivant The Expatriate Parade

Presented by Wasserman Projects (Detroit)

John Dunivant has achieved notoriety throughout the city of Detroit, and internationally, as the mastermind behind Theatre Bizarre. Self-funded and built by dozens of artists over the course of months the Theatre Bizarre would take place for one night each year and featured massive carnival rides, pyrotechnics, elaborate lighting rigs, and Coney Island-esque performers. Theatre Bizarre operated for ten years before its discovery and subsequent closure by Detroit city authorities in 2010.

The Expatriate Parade features a series of paintings and bronzes inspired by the closure of Theatre Bizarre. Facing an existential crisis, Dunivant chose to embrace the turmoil of the situation, with the resulting works on view in The Expatriate Parade serving as a celebration of his “exile”.

Once upon a time, there was an enchanted amusement park, hidden on the edge of a ragged city. For one night every year, this secret kingdom made itself known and sprang to life with fire and music and dance. – until the day it was exposed – and cast out.

The Expatriate Parade began as a single sketch of a scapegoat with a ferris wheel on its back. It bore my burden as it was driven from its home by an unfeeling and unseen power. This sketch led to many more, and the resulting parade of drawings – with its ceaseless forward motion in spite of the ever changing circumstances of the moment – led me to reflect on my own life. In the face of disintegrating relationships and a riot of personal challenges, I continue on. As we do. Each in our own exile from where we imagined we would be. This piece is a celebration of that exile.

My work grows from a variety of obsessions and fascinations; natural history museums, dioramas, Halloween, souvenir postcards, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, roadside attractions, reliquaries and religious iconography, traveling carnivals, ghost stories, children’s books, the Grand Guignol, John Singer-Sargent’s work, tribal rituals, folk and fairy tales, paper-toy theaters, secret societies, Dr. Suess, New Orleans funerals, wax museums, medical illustrations, P.T. Barnum and death. I paint the beautiful and the grotesque as a metaphor for both my internal struggles and the general state of mankind.  I paint life as seen through a lens of papier-mâché, poster paint and wax edifice.  I paint the characters that fill my life and my dreams and ultimately, tell my story.

– John Dunivant, 2013

Theatre Bizarre now operates legally at the Detroit Masonic Temple where it will hold its 13th edition on October 19, 2013 and and is the subject of an upcoming documentary. Macabre in their imagery and sitting across numerous pop cultural narratives, the joy Dunivant takes from the subject matter in The Expatriate Parade is evident, and fitting for an artist working far from the art world capitals in Detroit, facing its own existential crisis, with the attendant anxiety of loss, displacement, and fantasy of an unknown, perhaps better, future.

2 thoughts on “John Dunivant : “The Expatriate Parade”

  1. […] paintings and bronzes inspired by the closure of Theatre Bizarre, is on view through October 12 at the Lodge Gallery on New York’s Lower East Side. The artist will give a talk on Saturday, October 5, at 2 […]

  2. […] Amusing the Zillion, a blog about carnivals, writes up John Dunivant, creator of Detroit’s Theatre Bizarre, who has an exhibition of his TB-related work at a New York City gallery.  […]

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