For his first museum solo exhibition, Chicago-based artist Max Guy presents But tell me, is it a civilized country?, an installation of new works centered on The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s journey from Kansas to the fantastical land of Oz and back again is a tale of slippage between worlds, imagining a reality with boundaries so porous one could be blown through them by a particularly strong wind. Meanwhile, Oz itself embodies another kind of dual existence: as a highly developed fantasy world on its own narrative terms, and as a massively successful American multimedia franchise. But tell me, is it a civilized country? features a new body of work that operates across these registers, exploring the layers of fiction and reality that comprise Oz as both a story and a cultural phenomenon.
Spanning sculpture, painting, printmaking, installation, photography, and video, the works in this exhibition take up motifs from Oz and interpolate them with forms from the broader histories surrounding the book’s publication and reception, as well as a snaking, intertextual web of references drawn from Guy’s artistic education and personal library. Anchored in the specific geographical context of Chicago—where L. Frank Baum’s original novel was written and first published, and home to enduring monuments to fandom like the city-managed Oz Park—these various dimensions and more converge within each work through a series of formal and conceptual flattening gestures.
Curated by Michael Harrison.
Max Guy lives in Chicago. Guy works with paper, video, performance, assemblage and installation. He uses fast, ergonomic ways to make poetry of the world, filtering it through personal effects. Guy received his BFA in 2011 from Maryland Institute College of Art and his MFA in 2016 from Northwestern University. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Krannert Museum of Art (Urbana-Champaign); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Prairie Gallery, Produce Model, and Chicago Cultural Center (Chicago); Malmö Museum of Art (Malmo, Sweden); CAVE (Detroit); and Galeria Federico Vavassori (Milan, Italy).
Friends of Max Guy Patron Circle:
Chairs, Raven Thomas Abdul-Aleem and Zaid Abdul-Aleem; Gary Metzner and Scott Johnson; Trissa Babrowski and Sundeep Mullangi; Richard Wright and Valerie Carberry; Dirk Denison and David Salkin; and an anonymous donor.
Major annual support for the Renaissance Society is provided by 247 and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Additional support is provided by The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at Prince and The Provost’s Discretionary Fund at the University of Chicago. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
All Renaissance Society publications are made possible by The Mansueto Foundation Publications Program.
The Study at University of Chicago is the Renaissance Society’s Exclusive Hotel Sponsor.