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ArtYard Exhibition Features Bread and Puppet Founder

FRENCHTOWN — ArtYard is pleased to present Ecstatic Decrepitude, an exhibition featuring works by Bread and Puppet Founder Peter Schumann.

Nearly 60 years after Schumann founded the Bread and Puppet Theater on New York City’s Lower East Side, it remains one of the oldest nonprofit, self-supporting theater companies in the country, leaving an indelible stamp on the world of theater and the American cultural landscape.

Ecstatic Decrepitude features masks, puppets, books, paper maché relief work, and paintings which convey Schumann’s deep commitment to the creative and political work which unites artists and communities in celebration and protest.

Curated by Clare Dolan, the exhibition opens at a reception the evening of April 30 at ArtYard and remains on view through July 31.

Ecstatic Decrepitude is the second exhibition of the year at ArtYard and comprises the upper-level John & Lynn Kearney Gallery and lower-level River Gallery.

“Ecstatic Decrepitude is presented on two stories. Bulky, big, oppressed and oppressive decrepitude obviously belongs upstairs, way above ecstasy, which hides in book pages and requires diligent reading on the first floor,” Schumann says. “The faces, idols, agitators and sufferers of the Naked Humanity Republic get entertained by Father Time who strikes the clock for them relentlessly…”

Schumann’s puppet shows range from tightly composed theater pieces presented by members of the company to extensive outdoor pageants which require the participation of many community volunteers. Guided by a philosophy of living and working within the means available, Schumann’s aesthetic is inextricable from the paper maché, burlap, twine, and staples that make up and literally hold the puppets and the shows together.

“I first stumbled on Peter Schumann’s work in a retrospective at the Queen’s Museum,” said Jill Kearney, ArtYard executive director. “ There was something elegant in its crudeness, illuminating in its darkness, and articulate in its abstraction that moved me to tears. Soon after I drove to Vermont and volunteered as an apprentice. Peter is a force of nature, producing visual art, plays, pageants, circuses, theatrical protests, and loaves of bread at a joyous, outraged, ferocious clip.”

In connection with the exhibition, Bread and Puppet Press’ Cheap Art will be for sale. An art practice that grew out of selling art out of a school bus for 10 cents to $10, Cheap Art is practiced by all kinds of artists and puppeteers all over, and continues to cry out: Art is Not Business! Art Is Food! Art Soothes Pain! Art Wakes Up Sleepers! Art Is Cheap! Hurrah!

To learn more about ArtYard, visit artyard.org.

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