By Mack Chico
The Museum of Modern Art will present a major exhibition exploring the full scale of renowned filmmaker Tim Burton’s career, both as a director and concept artist for live-action and animated films, and as an artist, illustrator, photographer, and writer. The exhibition will be on view from November 22, 2009, through April 26, 2010. Tracing the current of Burton’s visual imagination—from his earliest childhood drawings through his mature work in film—the exhibition Tim Burton will bring together over 700 examples of rarely or never-before-seen drawings, paintings, storyboards, moving-image works, puppets, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera, and includes an extensive film series spanning Burton’s 27-year career. The exhibition explores how Burton has taken inspiration from sources in pop culture and reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as an expression of personal vision, garnering him an international audience of fans and influencing a generation of young artists working in film, video, and graphics.
Tim Burton is organized by Ron Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, with Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, The Museum of Modern Art
Mr. Magliozzi states: “There is no other living filmmaker possessing Tim Burton’s level of accomplishment and reputation whose full body of work has been so well hidden from public view. Seeing so much that was previously inaccessible in a museum context should serve to fuel renewed appreciation and fresh appraisal of this much-admired artist.”
Organized in collaboration with Burton, the exhibition presents artworks and objects drawn primarily from the artist’s personal archive, as well as studio archives and the private collections of Burton’s collaborators.
Included are little-known drawings, paintings, and sculptures created in the spirit of contemporary Pop Surrealism, as well as work generated during the conception and production of his films, such as original The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride puppets; Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Sleepy Hollow costumes; and even severed-head props from Mars Attacks! Also featured are the first public display of his student art and earliest nonprofessional films; examples of his work for the flash animation internet series The World of Stainboy (2000); a selection of the artist’s oversized Polaroid prints; graphic art and texts for non-film projects, like The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories (1997) and Tim Burton’s Tragic Toys for Girls and Boys (2003) collectible figure series; and art from a number of early unrealized projects. Additionally, a selection of international posters from Burton’s films will be on display in the theater lobby galleries.
The exhibition follows the entire course of Burton’s career, with childhood ephemera, juvenilia, and amateur short films from his youth in Burbank, CA; cartoons and drawings from his time at California Institute of the Arts; and examples of his first professional work at The Walt Disney Studios. Moving on to his mature work, the exhibition touches on the creature-based notions of character, motifs of masking and body modification, ongoing themes of adolescent and adult interaction, and elements of sentiment, cynicism, and humor that inform Burton’s work in a variety of mediums.
Burton’s entire cinematic oeuvre of 14 feature films—Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and Sweeney Todd (2007)—will be screened over the course of the five-month exhibition in the Museum’s Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. His early short films Vincent (1982) and Frankenweenie (1984) will also be featured. In conjunction with Tim Burton, MoMA presents The Lurid Beauty of Monsters, a series of films that influenced, inspired, and intrigued Burton.
Taking as its starting point a screening of horror movies that Burton organized in Burbank in 1977, the series includes such films as Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963), Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920), The Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman, 1961), Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922), and Earthquake (Mark Robson, 1974). An accompanying publication will be released in conjunction with MoMA’s exhibition, to be published in November 2009 by The Museum of Modern Art.