PRESS RELEASE – Once There Was, Once There Wasn’t: Fairy Tales Retold

September 14 – October 7
Reception: Friday, September 14, 2007, 5:30 – 7:30pm

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – Eight Modern is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Once There Was, Once There Wasn’t: Fairy Tales Retold. This group exhibition features works of art inspired by folk tales, fairy stories, and mythic archetypes.

With works by a number of artists, including Jessica Abel, Jim Dine, David Hockney, Peregrine Honig, Fay Ku, Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton, Adela Leibowitz, David Levinthal, Paula Rego, Kiki Smith, and Richard Tuttle, this exhibition illuminates and challenges traditional interpretations of fairy tales. Stories heard in childhood exert a powerful pull on the artists participating in Once There Was, who take on the powerful role of storyteller and the task of mythopoesis, of creating and renewing meaning. Their modern reworkings of old tales draw upon familiar narratives for their cultural resonance and iconography.

The lithograph “The Frog Prince” is based on an episode from Artbabe, comic book artist and writer Jessica Abel’s critically acclaimed, clear-eyed series about young bohemians in Chicago. Her ear for dialogue and eye for the nuances of non-verbal communication stand out.

Jim Dine was instrumental in helping Pop Art gain critical acceptance and widespread popularity in the 1960s. He has long been fascinated by the story of Pinocchio, especially by the puppet’s genesis and Geppetto’s ability to bring an inanimate object to life. To Dine, Pinocchio is much greater than the sum of his ill-shapen parts.

David Hockney’s etchings from Six Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1969) play upon the simple, direct language and the fantastical, often absurd nature of the six fairy tales. The influential British artist goes beyond literal illustration to construct memorable images of wit, imagination, and dramatic graphic style.

Once There Was will also include Father Gander, a portfolio of six lithographs from Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig. The prints pair subversively distorted fairy tale settings and characters with cheerfully mocking captions and titles. Provocative, sexually-charged depictions of Cinderella, Snow White and others are drawn with a palette inspired by the illustrations in classic children’s’ books.

The large-scale drawings of Fay Ku, are characterized by amazing draftsmanship, detail, and the judicious use of pattern. The Taiwanese-American artist creates a private folklore informed by a wide range of influences from classical Asian art to world mythology, current events, psychology, personal experience, and pure imagination. Her view of childhood is unromantic but astonishingly vital one, in which halfway-feral children act out fantastic allegories of socialization.

The late Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton brought a delightful exuberance and fluidity to her whimsical and exaggerated self-portraits. Such is the case in her print “Cinderella,” in which an aged Cinderella sits with sagging skin and well-worn feet, while her prince (whose crown is modeled on the Kansas City Royals’ logo) watches a baseball game through a castle window.

The paintings of Adela Leibowitz are portraits of young girls in dreamlike tableaus, finely-rendered in an eerie blue palette. The girls, isolated and oddly impassive, appear in ominous landscapes inspired the Brothers Grimm, Northern European painters, and classic horror films. Feelings of anxiety and suspense are made palpable through the artist’s juxtaposition of youthful curiosity and the threatening unseen.

David Levinthal’s suite of eight photogravures illustrates scenes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His arrangements of tin figurines, eerily silhouetted against the blackness of a void, powerfully evoke both cultural myths and historical fact.

The Nursery Rhyme etchings of Portuguese-born artist Paula Rego confirmed her as one of the foremost graphic artists of her generation. Darkly comic and psychologically charged, works such as Goosey Goosey Gander also reveal her prodigious talent as a storyteller.

The work of sculptor and printmaker Kiki Smith stand out, proffering a raw and intensely personal empathy with the heroines of cautionary tales like Little Red Riding Hood. Her works are elegiac in tone and explore childhood disenchantments, loss of innocence, adolescent awakening, attraction and vulnerability.

Known as an artist’s artist, Richard Tuttle resists easy categorization. Hey Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle is sprightly yet enigmatic – the association between the abstract composition and the line from the familiar nursery rhyme at the center of the lithograph is inexplicable but also somehow appropriate.

Once There Was explores the power and possibility to be found in the uncanny, earthy, violent, beautiful and altogether magical world of fairy tales.

Once There Was, Once There Wasn’t: Fairy Tales Retold will run from Friday, September 14, through Sunday, October 7. Eight Modern is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 5:30pm, and 11am to 4pm on Sundays, at 231 Delgado Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501. For further information and image requests, contact Jaquelin Loyd or Margo Thoma via email at or by phone at (505) 995-0231.