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Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Presents Robert Taplin : Selections from the Punch Series, 2005–10

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum presents Robert Taplin: Selections from the Punch Series, 2005–10, open October 31, 2010 – March 20, 2011.

The fictional character Punch and his misadventures in the contemporary world are the subject of Robert Taplin’s ongoing series of works, one of which will make its larger-than-life debut on The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum’s front lawn this Halloween

Rooted deep in Western mythology, Punch is an Anglicized version of Punchinello, the imaginary trickster who played a major role in seventeenth -century Italian commedia dell’arte. Taplin’s work is steeped in art history, and his Punch series was informed by the work of the eighteenth-century Venetian painter and printmaker Giovanni Tiepolo, who pictured Punchinello in a series of ink and wash drawings. While Tiepolo’s Punchinellos primarily poked fun at the pretensions of the elite, Taplin brings Punch into the present day, where his hi-jinks become infused with psychological and political undertones as well as express the artist’s personal anxieties.

Taplin has for the first time blown up one of his Punch tableaux to create a major new outdoor work as the eleventh installation in the Museum’s ongoing Main Street Sculpture Project, which brings new art to every passerby. The Young Punch Goes Shopping with His Mother, sited directly in front of the Museum on Ridgefield’s Main Street, is perhaps the most psychologically complex of his Punch pieces. In this work, Taplin has portrayed Punch as a five-foot-tall child being led by his towering, eight-foot-tall mother. Punch, who is often pictured causing trouble, is caught in an awkward and subservient role, emphasizing his male adolescent persona. The Young Punch Goes Shopping with His Mother is cast in hollow, translucent Fiberglass that displays a curious, marble-like quality in daylight. The large outdoor sculpture is joined by four small sculptures from Taplin’s Punch series on view indoors; they explore the character’s mischievous nature, including depictions of him arrested at the border, homeless pushing a shopping cart, scratching his burro’s ears, and doing a magic trick.

Aldrich exhibitions director Richard Klein notes, “Taplin has further dramatized the piece’s psychological underpinnings by giving it an alternating day and night character: every day at nightfall interior lighting transforms the sculpture into an eerie and alien presence.”

Taplin explains, “Punch’s comic vulgarity, lack of inhibitions, and his apparent absolution from the normal requirements of society make him a figure that is simultaneously despised and envied. Punch demonstrates the power of shame and guilt by ignoring them. His fixed facial expressions in different scenarios are hidden behind his mask, leaving the viewer to project emotion onto the sculptures. Bringing Punch into our own era, I find that he appears to be entirely at home.”

The Aldrich will celebrate the opening of Robert Taplin: Selections from the Punch Series, 2005–10 on Sunday, October 31, 2010, from 5 to 8 pm. Treats will be handed out on the front porch of the Museum for those who dare to venture out this night.

The Aldrich is supported, in part, by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The official media sponsors of exhibition openings are Ridgefield Magazine and WSHU Public Radio.

The Artist: Robert Taplin is a sculptor working in New Haven, CT who has exhibited work throughout the United States. He has executed public commissions for the New York MTA Arts in Transit and the state of Connecticut Percent for Art Program. Taplin has received numerous grants and awards, most notably from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He has also written extensively on sculpture, most prominently for Art in America, publishing a number of articles and dozens of individual reviews. He has taught in several graduate and undergraduate programs, most recently at Rhode Island School of Design. Robert Taplin is represented by Winston Wächter Fine Art, New York.

The Museum: The Aldrich is one of the few independent, non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States, and the only museum devoted to contemporary art in Connecticut. The Museum was opened to the public and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1964 by founder Larry Aldrich, who displayed the new work in a landmark 1783 house on Ridgefield’s historic Main Street, used today for administrative offices. Since 2004 the galleries have been located in a new 25,000 square-foot facility which received a design award from the American Institute of Architects. The Museum concentrates its exhibition program on solo exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists, complemented by acclaimed gallery-based education programs that use the work on view to help adults, families, and over 7,000 students annually to connect to our world through contemporary art. The Museum is located at 258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877. All exhibitions and programs are handicapped accessible. Free on-site parking. Regular Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 12 noon to 5 pm.

Image: Robert Taplin, “The Young Punch Goes Shopping with His Mother,” 2010

Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06877

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