Allen Ruppersberg at the Walker: dark but funny and very book forward

The art of Allen Ruppersberg is an arty librarian’s dream – art and books, books and art. The collection includes books and words as regalia and as something to be organized. He pulls the dark but funny out of mundane of life and words.

One of the bigger pieces was Al’s Café. Ruppersberg created a cafe and invited guests to come in like a restaurant debut. The trick was that the café didn’t serve food. But it did serve up plates with odd pairings of objects. It reminded me of the dinner party game where you invite guests to order their own meal – including silverware, cups, food – but all in a language that hopefully no one speaks. I like the idea. The exhibit was interesting in the same way a Richard Scarry or Eye Spy book is. So much to see. (And I had to sing Alice’s Restaurant the whole time we were in the room. Mandatory.)

The theme of big picture, lots of details, carried through many of the works. There was the wall of posters. Upon first look they all just look like carnival posters but once you look at each poster you’ll see that some are carnival-type posts but maybe have semi-phonetic  messages. There’s also a wall of book titles, authors and quotes. The one that caught my eye? “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” It’s a quote from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

There’s a darker section, Still Life that includes morose stories of murders on the walls surrounding a smattering of severed concrete heads. The work is from 1982 but the heads look like cartoon heads from heads in 40s. There’s blood dripping from the posters and Still Life written in blood. It’s creepy but cartoonish.

A special treat for me was the simple drawings of a home library with different instructions for organizing the books. My favorite? “Honey, I rearranged the collection according to two categories: Nice and not nice.” It’s very close to how I organize people.

A special treat for Aine was finding an article about and picture of her favorite Chuck Close in a room full of pictures of Ruppersberg objects.

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