Through no fault of his own, Edvard Munch could be considered an agent of kitsch. He feared this would be the case, writing in his undated diaries that “kitsch” was something “I have worked against all my life.” But after his death, re-creations and imitations of his paintings and prints—mostly of the “Scream”—weakened his paradoxical purpose: to simultaneously provide the viewer with an escape from and confrontation of anxiety. Although the “Scream” has been battered by commercialism, Munch’s angst pulsates in each of the 21 pieces held in the National Gallery’s latest exhibit on the prolific printmaker.
In Hot Springs, South Dakota, there’s a museum—the Pioneer Museum, Where the Past is Present!—occupying the town’s original red-rock schoolhouse high on a hill overlooking the canyon in the southern Black Hills. And it’s a fine little place, with old washing machines, wood cook stoves, and kerosene lamps. Old furniture, hand-crafted carpenter’s tools, and pot-bellied stoves. The glass liniment bottles and steel instruments of a pioneer-era doctor’s office. The paper packets and ribbon spools of an old general store.