Your Kid Did Do This: Brian Belott at 247365

by Paddy Johnson on June 12, 2015 · 1 comment Feature

Brian Belott, Installation view

Brian Belott, Installation view at 247364

Over at the Lower East Side gallery 247365, artist Brian Belott has opened Dr. Kid President Jr. one of the stranger shows you’ll see this summer—an exhibition comprised of 34 counterfeit paintings of found children’s art. The paintings are hung salon style on the gallery walls and the only clue that they are made by anyone other than a child is their surface. Each is painted with PolyColor on canvas. (PolyColor is a high end version of tempera.)

“It’s not a fly by night subject,” Belott told me over the phone recently, speaking of his collecting habits. The show draws from hundreds of books on children’s art the artist has collected over the years. “I’ve been obsessed with it 20 years plus.” Belott recalled a chain of influences early on; his mother saved hundreds of his drawings as a child; his introduction to the raw marked canvas of Jean-Michel Basquiat at Cooper Union; a mall job he shared with an artist friend who introduced him to Donald Baechler’s work. “I love the untutored hand,” he told me. He spoke with such passionate I wondered if I’d ever met an artist so consumed by images.

When I asked him why he made the show the answers seem to come all at once. He’s always copied artists, so copying his kids books made sense. He’s collected the books for years, so naturally he’d want to do something with them. More specifically, though, the exhibition came out of Draw Gym, a show of drawings he curated at 247364 and Know More Games in 2013 that included more than 70 artists. After that show he asked himself, “What if the curator paints everything? What if he’s the person bringing you the image.”

Two years later, Dr. Kid President Jr. was born. As it turns out the show also offers some push back against the market. “Kids stuff is worthless.” he told me. “And the original drawings and paintings are probably destroyed. I feel like the art world masters should all know these things but I thought reproductions would be way less fun for the viewer.”

Brian Belott

A replica painting of two figures fighting by Brian Belott

It’s a weird show. For one thing, it doesn’t look like “Art”—it looks like paintings made by kids in a classroom. For another, because the developmental stages of kids are so defined, it’s easy to miss the clues that these are replicas. In some paintings where the printed reproduction was mis-registered, and Belott liked the look, he preserved error. And of course, pretty much all the paintings depict good times, a quality Belott believes is the result of editing by the original book authors themselves. He also concedes, though, that he also did not want to pay homage to children’s drawings by including the works that came out of art therapy. “It’s not about that,” he said.

Curiously, even the fact that some of the original works were made close to 100 years ago could be missed. One painting depicts what appears to be two soldiers fighting with sticks (that one is executed twice to get it right), in another called Radiation from the 1920s, six dated street lamps beam light across a darkened street. A slight feeling of uncanniness drapes these paintings if you look at them long enough.

Belott is fully aware of this strangeness. “I didn’t give the audience any signals that the work has been processed,” he said. Artists often use photoshop filters or other digital processes to let the audience know the artist is present. This show has very little of that.

Belott's Zine

Brian Belott’s Zine

It’s more like studied scholarship in the form of a trompe l’oile painting. Or a zine. I purchased a 3 dollar mag from the gallery notable for the unmarked sheet of green paper used as its cover. Inside, taxonomies of children’s doodles line the pages, many of which were identified and catalogued by educator and author Rhonda Kellogg. Glowing suns with happy faces, ladders, spiders. My favorite are all the full body figures; each is a giant happy face with two lines at the bottom for feet and two lines out of the side for arms. (A page full of cats looks remarkably similar but for the pointy ears on each drawing.) No adult ever draws stick figures this way.

“The kids make better paintings.” Belott explained. For this reason, 50 percent of the sales are being donated to Art Start, an organization that supports marginalized kids. Later he made sure pay even more homage to the kids. “I’m just the facilitator here,” he told me, indicating that the kids were the real masters. I wondered if that point of view understated his role, but I appreciated it regardless. It’s the kind of vision an artist can only have in the throws of a true passion project.

More images below:

brian belott

A human house. Replica by Brian Belott. Made in Italy circa 1956 by Adrian0, age 7. “La Prima comunione”

A person/dog running. Such fresh color! Replica by Brian Belott

A person/dog running. Such fresh color! Replica by Brian Belott

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: