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Laguna Museum Enters the Grisly World of Clive Barker : Art: The exhibit, which opens Aug. 14, will feature works by the British novelist and filmmaker best known for violent thrillers.


Laguna Art Museum's next exhibit suggests that its new director, Naomi Vine, doesn't plan to play it safe with conservative, pretty-picture shows. Indeed, horror show is the best way to describe what's coming from Britain's horror meister, Clive Barker.

"The Imagination of Clive Barker," opening Aug. 14 at the museum's South Coast Plaza satellite and organized by the museum, will consist of 23 figurative paintings and drawings by Barker, a best-selling novelist and filmmaker.

Revered by horror enthusiasts for his violent, grisly thrillers, including the "Hellraiser" and "Candyman" series, he has also had two shows at New York's respected Bess Cutler Gallery.

The exhibit's opening will be preceded on Aug. 13 by a benefit screening of Barker's new film, "Lord of Illusions," starring Scott Bakula. United Artists, which is releasing the film nationally on Aug. 25, is also underwriting the gallery show. Vine asserted, however, that Barker's talent as a visual artist, rather than any UA promotional ploy, is the reason for mounting the exhibit.

"We're showing his work because he's a very good painter and graphic artist," she said. "It's really a very fine exhibit and whenever we look for sponsors, we look for someone who has an interest in the show and reasons to want to give a public institution funds to put it on." The museum approached UA for funding, she added, not vise versa. The screening will benefit general museum operations.

A museum press release describes Barker's expressionistic work as "fantastical, erotic and horrific." Vine added that he paints demons, hybrid creatures, humans surrounded by flames, and religious imagery, but his approach can be lyrical and romantic, a la England's William Blake, another multimedia artist.

Some works "are no more horrifying than dozens of paintings by lots of contemporary artists working today," Vine said, "but Barker places the human figure in a frightening context, as well as a very compelling context with strong psychological" intrigue.

Largely through a catalogue essay, "the exhibition really tries to establish a very broad cultural context for the paintings and for the role of imagination in the visual arts," Vine said. "The paintings are really imaginative fantasy. They are very creative. And the role of creativity and imagination in art, as well as in literature and filmmaking, is of great interest to us."

The exhibit and screening seem particularly bold considering a conservative trend among museums these days and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's recent charge that Hollywood produces too many violent, depraved movies. But Vine, who joined the museum in March, didn't waver on her decision to stage the exhibit.

"Just like not every exhibit is going to appeal to everyone, I'm not sure everyone is going to want to see the film," Vine said. "But those who do, I think, will be delighted by it."

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