Scarlet Billows is the Dumbo Arts Center’s first two-person exhibition. Both Melinda Bergman and Santiago Cucullu employ a wide range of inventive forms to find within a larger social context an alternative, albeit temporary, personal truth.
The lyrics of Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife, from The Threepenny Opera, inspired Melinda Bergman to name the exhibition, Scarlet Billows. Among Weill’s many collaborations with Bertold Brecht, The Threepenny Opera, adapted from an 18th century English ballad opera, embodies the social and economic upheaval of Germany in the 1920s. The reference alludes to a similar cataclysmic decadence in today’s world i.e. the “scarlet billows” of a knife wound.
While both Bergman and Cucullu employ a complex set of conceptual visual strategies in their works, they express ideas about common reality similar to Brecht and Weill. Both artists use a vocabulary that unravels the pretty niceties of a sugarcoated reality, flaunting a mordant humor towards political actions, which they render alternatively childish and harrowing.
Marilu Knode is a Senior Curator at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona