Clyde Broadway

Callanwolde Fine Art Center

Clyde Broadway’s work is a satiric faux-naïf attack on glitzy contemporary mythologies. Some of his paintings suggest outsider art, with their bright primary colors and cartoonlike drawing; the series of small one-sided sculptures in this show, entitled “Kicking Ass and Taking Names” might even be taken for imitations of Howard Finster. These works graphically depict instances of hostility and anger, and include the “Hussein Series,” which is right up-to-date. But it is in the larger works that his intentions become clear; this show, entitled “Worries of the Western World: An Investigation of the Miraculous, the Mysterious, and the Mundane,” affirms Broadway’s engagement with the contemporary world of tabloids, home shopping networks, and lotteries.

The Return of the King, 1990, for example, refers to Elvis, rather than a messiah or the Hobbits. The King is descending from a power-pyramid and healing three women who are lame, overweight, and have small breasts. By itself, this work suggests a condescending attitude to the Southern tradition of intertwined pop music and evangelical religion, but other pieces broaden the satire. Liberty, 1990, for example, replaces the statue’s face with Marilyn Monroe’s; this apotheosis of American aspirations is surrounded by consumer goods suspended in the air.

You May Have Already Won, 1990, is the most ambitious piece in this show. Gothic angels and a baroque trompe-l’oeil frame set off a central portrait of Ed McMahon. The lottery-spokesman is surrounded by his attributes, including a chicken with a golden egg, a hand with crossed fingers, and a sphinx. The consumer goods promised by unearned wealth are also present in abundance. Other aspects of luck and its accompanying superstitions appear in the form of representations of sporting myths and spoon-bending. Another work might be a proposal for a stock certificate or a new dollar-bill design. Going My Way: A Self Portrait of the Artist as a Hitchhiker, 1989, which was the hit of an artist-organized group show in Atlanta last year, is essentially a 53-million-dollar bill depicting Broadway hitching a ride with van Gogh. The image includes accoutrements of the Japanese wealth responsible for setting a recent auction record.

Other motifs including a group of poodles raining down from heaven and a Gothic mode of presentation that spreads images evenly across a depthless landscape hark back to Broadway’s previous concerns. Again, this lack of spatial allusion suggests an affinity with untrained artists, but Broadway has more in common with Ralph Fasanella than with Grandma Moses, Finster, or Thornton Dial. His work is engaged with the contemporary city and often addresses specific political issues like the developer’s siege of Atlanta that has left prominent tracts of the city as bankrupt wastelands. The quality of his draughtsmanship varies from crude caricature to high-art appropriation, according to the style appropriate to a given subject or theme, thus avoiding the consistent “look” of most outsider art. The paintings in “Worries of the Western World” are more broadly based than some of his previous pieces. As a whole, Broadway’s work is more than a satire of specific instances of venality and greed; it constitutes a comic portrait of the media-driven culture of unrealistic hopes and undeliverable promises.

Glenn Harper

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