Too Cute! Sweet is about to get Sinister at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
From adult onesies to bunny ear photo-filters, there is an overwhelming presence of cuteness in contemporary society. Artist Rachel Maclean asks why we feel the need to share and reproduce cute things, as well as question the fine line between cuteness and creepiness in her new exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
Too Cute! Sweet is about to get Sinister is introduced by ‘Dr Cute’ – a grotesque Care Bear-like creature played by Maclean herself presenting a short lecture on the themes explored in the show, whilst being repeatedly distracted by its contents.
The doctor attempts to put forward an academic account of cuteness and its affects, but will be constantly hindered by sudden emotional responses, as artworks incite reflexes of love, repulsion and fear.
The artist known for her distinctive satirical films examines the world of cuteness with curated works from the Arts Council Collection and Birmingham’s collection to reveal how objects and images can have the unique ability to be simultaneously sweet and sinister.
Maclean’s display showcases the multiple manifestations of sinister cuteness with works ranging from 19th-century oil paintings to internet-inspired installations. Artists include John Isaacs, Gillian Wearing, Ana Maria Pacheco, Helen Chadwick, Paula Rego, Peter Blake and Hermann Sondermann.
Rachel Maclean said: “I’ve had a fantastic time exploring the Birmingham collection and the Arts Council Collection and it’s been an honour to be able to bring together a show that includes so many artists that I admire. I have been fascinated by cuteness for a long time and think that despite it being an area that so many artists investigate, it can often be overlooked as being too silly, shallow or feminine a subject for debate.
“I think cuteness is fundamental to our experience of consumer capitalism and it’s important that we take it seriously in order to understand what we use cute objects for and the effect they have on us. Something which has come to the fore in curating the show has been the number of artists that toe the line between cuteness and creepiness. There is something fascinatingly complex about this and for me it is the fundamental mystery of the cute object, how can things that look sweet be simultaneously sinister?”
Too Cute! Sweet is about to get Sinister is at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until Sunday 12th May 2019
To find out more visit birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/too-cute.
Main image: Arts Council Collection exhibition Too Cute! by Rachel Maclean at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Photography by Luke Unsworth. January 2019.