Release Date: June 20,2019

Fairy tales get dark in Dread & Delight at the Akron Art Museum

Classical fairy tales, the kind collected by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century, are filled with disturbing imagery, including dismemberment, parental abandonment and diabolical murder plots. The tales sometimes seem as blood-soaked as the goriest contemporary horror movies. In Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World, a new exhibition presented by the Akron Art Museum, contemporary artists use classical fairy tales, and all their emotions and imagery, to address the complexities of life today. The artists embrace the championing of the disenfranchised that occurs in many fairy tales, and also use the darker elements of the stories to explore questions of gender, social roles, sexuality and the ambivalent nuances of daily life.
Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister said, “Fairy tales take marginalized people—women, children, the poor—and give them agency in their own stories. That radical way of upturning power relations makes fairy tales a very attractive subject matter for contemporary artists.”
Each of the 21 artists in Dread & Delight uses recognizable elements from one of seven stories: Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Cinderella, All Fur, Fitcher’s Bird and Snow White. They draw inspiration from diverse versions of the tales, from 19th century Grimm’s compilations to Walt Disney, to Angela Carter’s late-1970s feminist retellings.
The exhibition’s artists dismantle and reassemble the tales in imaginative ways. Timothy Horn’s nearly life-size carriage made of crystalized rock candy becomes an opportunity to address queer identity and the idea of the so-called rags-to-riches American dream. Ana Teresa Fernández reverses the politics of Cinderella’s transformation by creating a pair of high heels from ice and then standing on a street grate, wearing them as they melt away. A series of works on paper by Natalie Frank illustrating a lesser-known Grimms’ story, All Fur, depicts the story’s heroine as neither victim nor passive recipient of a fairy-tale happy ending.
The artists in Dread & Delight use fairy tales to access the richness of human life, from grotesque to sublime, highlighting the ongoing relevance of stories that are often overlooked, but which nevertheless have important things to tell us about ourselves.
Dread & Delight opens on Saturday, June 29, 2019, with a preview party for members from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. It will be on view through September 22, 2019, and will present the work of Ghada Amer, John Baldessari, Ericka Beckman, Nayland Blake, Ellen Cantor, Andrea Dezsö, Ana Teresa Fernández, Natalie Frank, Anna Gaskell, MK Guth, Arturo Herrera, David Hockney, Timothy Horn, Tom Otterness, Alison Saar, Cindy Sherman, Xaviera Simmons, Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, Miwa Yanagi, and Gil Yefman.