Clayton Brothers: Inside Out, a new major exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, presents twenty-six paintings and three mixed-media installations created collaboratively by Rob and Christian Clayton. The Clayton Brothers construct complex narratives that introduce memorable characters and comment wryly on contemporary life. The exhibition, which is organized by museum director Stephen Fleischman, will be on view in the museum’s main galleries from September 12, 2010, through January 2, 2011.
A members’ opening for Clayton Brothers: Inside Out will take place on Saturday, September 11, from 6:30 to 9 pm. The evening will include a conversation between Fleischman and the Clayton Brothers at 7 pm in the museum’s lecture hall.
Born, respectively, in 1963 and 1967, Rob and Christian Clayton spent most of their childhood in Colorado. However, several family vacations took them to California, where they were drawn to the state’s edgy cultural energy. Among the influences often ascribed to the Clayton Brothers are skateboard and surf culture, punk rock, folk art, cartoons, and street art. The brothers acknowledge these influences; as Rob Clayton states, “Maybe they’re exactly on the mark, because what we’re doing is filtering the world around us.”
Rob and Christian initially maintained separate studio practices, while also taking on design, illustration, and advertising projects. With these commercially oriented projects, they often felt the frustration of having their most interesting ideas and imagery rejected. “It was always a challenge for us to have our vision approved within the scope of a given assignment,” Christian Clayton says. “It seemed that our ideas were too outside the norm.”
Since 1996, when they began to work on each other’s canvases, collaboration has been central to the Clayton Brothers’ art making. Working together, the artists use their common frame of reference in pursuit of a common goal, each adding layers and complexity to their narratives. Today, Rob and Christian Clayton share a studio in the La Crescenta neighborhood of Los Angeles. Their work is included in important corporate and private collections.
Clayton Brothers: Inside Out is the first museum survey of the brothers’ work. It presents works from the six major series created collaboratively by Rob and Christian Clayton since 2001, beginning with the installation piece Tim House (In Green Pastures)--in the collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art--and concluding with the bold, large-scale canvases of theJumbo Fruit series. Series titles suggest the disquiet or irony--or often both--that characterizes the individual works. Works in the As Is are connected by the concept of people, like houses or other objects available for purchase, being presented in “as-is” condition, while the Patient series portrays the subjects and ramifications of the medical industry with both humor and dismay.
Stephen Fleischman says the work of the Clayton Brothers has “consistently been informed by vivid color and an eccentric cast of characters. The result is an obsessively rich body of work that strikes universal chords, but remains deeply personal. Front and center are the unique people, animals, and places that occupy the outskirts of the American psyche.”
Saturday, September 11 • 7-8 pm
Art Talk: Rob and Christian Clayton
A Lussier Family Lecture
In conjunction with the opening of Clayton Brothers: Inside Out, Rob and Christian Clayton will discuss their work and studio practice in conversation with MMoCA director Stephen Fleischman. Lecture hall. 60 minutes.
Saturday, October 9 • 11-11:30 am
Docent Gil Hillman will discuss artists’ intentional distortions of the literal image to reveal the character of their subjects. The discussion will focus on works in True Self and Clayton Brothers: Inside Out.
Thursday, October 28 • 12:30-1 pm
Fred Stonehouse Discusses Clayton Brothers: Inside Out
Fred Stonehouse will discuss works on view in Clayton Brothers: Inside Out, focusing on the artists’ references to popular culture, stylistic and painterly choices, and creative process. An assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department, Stonehouse is also nationally known for his distinctive, highly symbolic paintings.
Clayton Brothers: Inside Out has been generously funded by The DeAtley Family Foundation; James and Sylvia Vaccaro; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.; Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.; the Richard J. Massey Foundation for Arts and Sciences; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation; Potter Lawson, Inc.; the Terry Family Foundation; Hooper Corporation-General Heating & Air Conditioning; H&H Electric and H&H Solar Energy Services; Bill White and Kathie Nichols; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.