Dec 3rd 2022

Max Guy: But tell me, is it a civilized country?

@ Renaissance Society

5811 S Ellis Ave, Cobb Hall, 4th Fl, Chicago, IL 60637

Opening Saturday, December 3rd, from 4PM - 7PM

On view through Sunday, February 5th

For his first museum solo exhibition, Chicago-based artist Max Guy presents But tell me, is it a civilized country?, an installation of new works centered on The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s journey from Kansas to the fantastical land of Oz and back again is a tale of slippage between worlds, imagining a reality with boundaries so porous one could be blown through them by a particularly strong wind. Meanwhile, Oz itself embodies another kind of dual existence: as a highly developed fantasy world on its own narrative terms, and as a massively successful American multimedia franchise. But tell me, is it a civilized country? features a new body of work that operates across these registers, exploring the layers of fiction and reality that comprise Oz as both a story and a cultural phenomenon.

Spanning sculpture, painting, printmaking, installation, photography, and video, the works in this exhibition take up motifs from Oz and interpolate them with forms from the broader histories surrounding the book’s publication and reception, as well as a snaking, intertextual web of references drawn from Guy’s artistic education and personal library. Anchored in the specific geographical context of Chicago—where L. Frank Baum’s original novel was written and first published, and home to enduring monuments to fandom like the city-managed Oz Park—these various dimensions and more converge within each work through a series of formal and conceptual flattening gestures.

Curated by Michael Harrison.

Max Guy lives in Chicago. Guy works with paper, video, performance, assemblage and installation. He uses fast, ergonomic ways to make poetry of the world, filtering it through personal effects. Guy received his BFA in 2011 from Maryland Institute College of Art and his MFA in 2016 from Northwestern University. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Krannert Museum of Art (Urbana-Champaign); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Prairie Gallery, Produce Model, and Chicago Cultural Center (Chicago); Malmö Museum of Art (Malmo, Sweden); CAVE (Detroit); and Galeria Federico Vavassori (Milan, Italy).



Max Guy, stills from The City & the City (Study #4), 2021, two-channel video. Courtesy of the artist

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