“Creepshow” Finds Art in Cult Classic Horror Movies

Thomas Breen photoAn oversize bag of movie popcorn looked out over Ordinary’s dining room on Saturday night.

Mounted in the middle of a bright, circular spotlight and set off against the popular Chapel Street bar’s oak-paneled walls, the popcorn bag had a certain menace to it: brimming with buttered snacks, but loose and tattered. The bag’s red and green stripes broke at points to reveal a sickly, green ooze, as if something nasty lurked within.

The popcorn and its ghoulish container were not on Ordinary’s food menu this weekend, but were rather one of the centerpieces of a new exhibition of paintings, sculptures and mixed-media artwork inspired by cult classic horror movies from the 1970s and 1980s.

“Creepshow,” which opened at Ordinary on Saturday night, features around a dozen film-inspired pieces from New Haven artists Audrey Nefores and Nicholas Hurwitz-Goodman.

The show is the latest installment in a rotating, monthly series of exhibitions at Ordinary that are designed to provide local artists with a cost-free setting to show off their work while raising money for a local nonprofit of the artists’ choice.

Inspired by their shared love of all things movies, Nefores and Hurwitz-Goodman promised to donate 25 percent of any sales they make over the course of the exhibition to Best Video Film & Cultural Center, a three-decade-old video rental store and performance space in Hamden that recently became an educational nonprofit. The exhibition will be up at Ordinary through early December.

“We want to remind people of the magic of going somewhere, like out to a bar, and having a tactile experience with art,” Nefores said.

Hurwitz-Goodman and Nefores said that they wanted the exhibition to recall the physicality of film. In an age of digital production and consumption of movies, they said that the automated algorithms of Netflix and Amazon can never replace walking into a store like Best Video and seeing movie boxes, browsing shelves, and talking with store clerks and fellow movie buffs.

The art in the show is loosely divided into two main categories: artworks inspired by movie props, and artworks inspired by the voyeuristic concept of peeping. Almost all of the works, however, find their source in some indelible image from a 1980s horror film.

“I’ve always been fascinated with props as these ordinary things that gain their full activation in the context of a movie,” said Hurwitz-Goodman, who made most of the prop-related works.

He created the popcorn bag. Its shaggy red-and-green exterior called to mind the tattered, striped sweater of serial killer Freddy Krueger from 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Hanging alongside the spotlit concession was a bright color-pencil drawing inspired by David Cronenberg’s The Brood. With their backs to the viewer, two murderous monster-children, dressed tightly in scarves and snowsuits, confront a third, bundled, helpless child.

On the wall closer to the kitchen hung a giant pair of denim trousers, stuffed like a scarecrow and frayed at the edges with fluorescent green bristles. Hurwitz-Goodman explained that the piece was inspired by George A. Romero’s 1982 horror anthology film Creepshow, from which the Ordinary exhibition took its name.

In one of the vignettes, screenwriter and horror novelist Stephen King plays a dim-witted farmer who stumbles upon a meteor, becomes infected with an intergalactic malady, and promptly starts sprouting a thick mat of bright green vegetation all over his body.

Most of Nefores’s contributions played with the concept of looking: through windows, through bars, at a movie screen and then back out at an audience.

“So much of the romance you get from watching a film comes from the allure of looking at something illuminated,” she said, explaining the backlit nature of many of her works.

A digital matte photo collage hung on the far wall above the dining room’s curtained fireplace. Eighteen images, ordered into a grid by lines of incandescent white light, presented a frame-by-frame retelling of the scene in John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man in which a government agent is attacked on his hotel balcony while watching a parade march through the center of Paris.

In one row of images, the agent looks out at the parade, an old man from across the street looks back at the agent on the balcony, and the agent’s attacker stares menacingly as he rushes in on his unsuspecting victim. Connected by the lines of light emanating from behind the collage, each waiting image burns with the intensity of the abrupt violence on screen.

On either side of the Marathon Man work, a Body Double-inspired self-portrait of Nefores peeking through Venetian blinds and a brightly lit photograph depicting the confrontational, possessed stare of a character in The Beyond reinforced themes that any diligent fan of Rear Window should know by heart. These images are captivating, pleasurable and sometimes taboo, but the viewer is always implicated in what he or she is looking at, so watch at your own peril.

To round out Ordinary’s temporary transformation into a venue for pop-horror cinephilia, Best Video store clerks Rob Harmon and Molly Capobianco set up stacks of old VHS across one of the dining room’s tables, hoping to entice a few weekend diners into browsing the horror, sci-fi and exploitation fare and then enquire about becoming a member at Best Video.

Titles like Blood and Guns lay right alongside Meateater and Slumber Party ’57. The distant-eyed vamp of Satan’s Princess stood next to the fist-pumping dirt bike rider of On Any Sunday II.

“There’s a real history to some of these movies,” Harmon said with a smile as he picked through the cassette cases before him. “There’s a real weight to them. And their covers are just so lurid, eye-catching and enticing.”

Creepshow is currently on display in the back dining room at Ordinary at 990 Chapel St. The exhibition will be up through early December.

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