The feedback loop between art and the vernacular tightened throughout the 20th century into its current knot. Cultural information moves so quickly now that it's almost pointless to take the time to trace and critique it. The Ackland offers a chance to step into the fabulous swirl in The Spectacular of Vernacular, which runs through March 18.
But it's not so simple as slouching into the exhibition and uttering, "Gawsh, how thangs have changed." Organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the show is inspired by artist Mike Kelley's observation that "the mass art of today is the folk art of tomorrow." Vernacular forms emerge and senesce in about 40 works by more than two dozen contemporary artists. The oldest works in the show date to the 1970s. Formidable pieces such as a Dario Robleto wall display incorporating sailors' valentine letters and a phosphorescent Lari Pittman mural painting share the space with more contemplative photography from William Eggleston and video works by Marina Abramović and Chris Larson. This show runs high-voltage current through your relationships to your own past as well as our shared cultural inheritance. —Chris Vitiello