On April 29, the Madison Museum of Contemporary art will open AllLicensed Fool: Animations by Allison Schulnik and Wong Ping, the first thematically curated exhibition to be presented in the museum’s Imprint Gallery. Wong Ping (b. Hong Kong, 1984) and Allison Schulnik (b. San Diego, 1978) both utilize experimental animation to create loose narratives set within beautifully strange worlds. Although immediately dazzling in visual impact, the works are nevertheless grounded by a poetic sensibility that exposes insight into human emotion and vulnerability.

In Schulnik’s Eager (2014) and Ping’s An Emo Nose (2015), grotesque human characters exist within fantastical environments; combining droll situations with mesmerizing surrealism, both animations operate as sophisticated and sincere exploration of the humanity with each of us. The title of the exhibition, AllLicensed Fool, refers to a passage in William Shakespeare’s tragic play King Lear during which the otherwise unnamed Fool irreverently criticizes the King. A recurring character type throughout Shakespeare's works (and derived from the long tradition of the court fool or jester), the Fool was expected to amuse his master or mistress, and thereby had the license to say whatever he desired. In providing insolent honesty packaged as entertainment, the all-licensed fool simultaneously reveals truth and serves as an example of the dignified within the absurd. Through the juxtaposition of unusual characters and unabashed, unadulterated truth in Ping’s and Schulnik’s films, we are left empathizing with the forlorn and appreciating the humor and beauty we encounter. 

Generous support for the Imprint Gallery has been provided by Nancy Gross, Raven Software, and Hiebing.