This massive exhibition tells an improbable narrative of aspiring illustrator twins from Philadelphia ending up in the stop-motion animation field- all because on their way to Amsterdam, their final destination, they were sidetracked in London by getting a grant for an animation project from the British Film Institute. Lucky for us fans of their amazing stop-motion work, they basically fell into it.
Not only their work, but the exhibition devotes a large portions to their early influences- the works of naturalist painter Rudolf Freund, Polish surrealist posters, the Polish film director/animator Walerian Borowczyk and of course, the Czech master Jan Svankmajer.
Occupying MoMA's two floors, On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets'
labyrinthine set up is filled with their paintings, drawings, book and record covers, puppets, scale set designs and a great number of cabinets of curiosities- seen through magnifying holes, and projections of their short film and video work, add to that the screenings of their entire filmography- shorts, two feature length live-action films, commercials, dance films, music videos, documentaries; one should prepare spending a whole day in the museum.
At the brief Q & A session with the press, the Quay Brothers appear reserved and thoughtful in their measured responses. With their long and lean figures, the twins possess a distinct other-worldliness. When asked if they ever argued while working on a project, they said they never disagree. Often finishing each others sentences, they always seem to be in perfect sync.
Bradley Rust Gray's film Jack and Diane
(which will be released in the fall) features new stop-motion animation sequences by the Quays.
Prior to the exhibition's opening on Aug 12, there will be a screening of the new 35mm print of the Quay Brothers' luminous first feature (and one of my all time favorites), Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream Which People Call Human Life
, on Aug 9, 7pm.
For tickets and more info, please visit MoMA website
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions of the world can be found at www.dustinchang.com