This month In the Frame goes ‘on holiday’, as it has done once before, to highlight a work of art outside the collections of the Archives and Museum. This time we feature the Canadian artist Kim Adams’ Bruegel-Bosch Bus (an installation on permanent display at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario) comprising a rusted VW campervan out of which sprawls a carnivalesque, comic-serious landscape of detailed miniature scenes built up from action figures, model railway sets, toy dinosaurs, dolls, skeletons and much else besides. A mock-industrial complex sprouts from the rear of the vehicle, small in scale but breathtaking in extent. Myriad scenes demand the patient attention of the viewer: fairground amusements, a fire in an office block, King Kong atop a skyscraper. The artist’s touch is light and most of his references are playful, but the overwhelming scope and detail of the work considered as a whole suggests an ambition on his part to represent the consumerist-industrialist enterprise of Western economies as a modern Tower of Babel. There is no clearer indication of this than in Adams’ acknowledgement of Peter Bruegel and Hieronymous Bosch in the title of his work, and indeed a comparable vision animates the intent and execution of their work (there are no better examples of this than Bruegel’s Turmbau zu Babel and Kinderspiele, both at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum).
How has Adams’ Bruegel-Bosch Bus merited a place in this series of posts? Certainly not through any direct connection with Bethlem or the Maudsley Hospitals. Remember, this is In the Frame in holiday (and consequently whimsical) mode. Earlier this year, as regular readers of this blog will know, the Art Gallery of Hamilton played host to the works of another Canadian artist who counted Bosch and Bruegel amongst his formative influences, and advanced a searing analysis of twentieth-century society through works of acute vision and considerable technical ability. William Kurelek: The Messenger moved to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in May, where it will remain on display until the beginning of September 2012. Yet there was a time in the spring when it was possible to view works by Kurelek such as Harvest of Our Mere Humanism Years, Behold Man Without God, This is the Nemesis and – most tellingly – The Tower of Babel in close proximity to (well, under the same roof as) Adams’ Bruegel-Bosch Bus. If only the works of Bosch and Bruegel could have been displayed in juxtaposition to both!