Like many artists, Henry Darger became famous posthumously. His works were found in his Chicago apartment after he died in the 1973. Darger felt he was bad at drawing so most of his paintings were traced or derived from source material such as comic clippings and coloring books, which he then embellished by adding his own captions and collages. He made his own watercolors and named them Oriental Blue and Flesh Colour, a purplish shade. His works center on a fantasy manuscript he wrote entitled “The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave,” clocking in at more than 15,000 pages. His paintings follow the cherubic Vivian girls through battles with their enemies, abusive adult males. The exhibit delves into Darger’s reclusive world, showing photos of his apartment, excerpts from his novel and the pencils, paints and books he used in his works. Seen up close, his double-sided watercolor images slightly bleed through to the other side and his support are two sections glued together, like a continuous scroll. The exhibit is like peering through a keyhole into the artist’s psyche, and although we may never comprehend his genius, it’s a good place to start. (Garin Pirnia)
Through March 16 at the the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood, on the campus of the University of Chicago.