Masked Spectacle:
Commedia dell'Arte and Bread & Puppet Theater

January 18 - May 8, 2011
Wilbur Room

This exhibition combines prints by American/Hungarian artist Giuseppe Pecsenke (1942-1989) featuring characters and scenes from the independent theater form, Commedia dell'Arte, with masks and puppets from the radical puppet theater group, Bread & Puppet, based in Glover, Vermont. Commedia dell'Arte and Bread & Puppet incorporate and combine various aspects of mime, dance, pantomime, circus, and masks, often using stock characters to tell their tales and to stage their spectacle. Although visually quite different, both forms of spectacle stress human themes: love, money, sex, greed, hunger, war, fear and death. Moreover, they both incorporate the use of masks to call attention to issues of identity.

Throughout the modern era, artists have identified with these themes and found meaning in the characters of the Commedia dell'Arte, relating these stock figures to the many roles of the artist himself: critic, dissenter, outcast, wanderer, enchanter, acrobat, and clown. Masked Spectacle provides the framework for these reference points and informs the artist's relationship to these character types as represented in the two other circus-themed exhibitions on view, Under the Big Top: The Fine Art of the Circus in America, and Georges Rouault: Cirque de L'Étoile Filante.

This exhibition was organized by the Fleming Museum, with generous support from the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Endowment Fund.


IMAGE (above right): Bread & Puppet (Glover, Vermont). White Clown Masks, c. 1980s. Paper mâche, paint, twine. Courtesy of Bread & Puppet