Henry Darger: The Room Revealed
Methods and Manipulations
Henry Darger (1892-1973) was a Chicagoan who spent part of his youth consigned to an Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children in Lincoln, Ill. As a young adult, he returned to Chicago, got a job as a janitor and lived a mostly-reclusive life in a one-room apartment. At the time of Darger’s death, his landlords discovered an extensive body of art work and writings. Central to these was the novel, In the Realms of the Unreal, accompanied by hundreds of illustrations made through a painstaking tracing process, through which he learned to draw and paint. In 2000, former landlady Kiyoko Lerner donated the contents of Darger’s living and working spaces to Intuit, which were installed in 2008. The Henry Darger Room Collection and Archive includes source materials for his illustrations (tracings, clippings from newspapers, magazines, coloring books, cartoons); architectural elements and furnishings (table, fireplace, phonograph, dresser, chandelier); and art making supplies (paints, brushes, pencils).
Methods and Manipulations is the second of three exhibitions in the series Henry Darger: The Room Revealed, which draws upon the Henry Darger Room Collection and Archive to explore questions about the author and artist’s life and work. The series will culminate in the dismantling of the current Room exhibition to complete conservation assessment of fragile items and plan for a new installation. The exhibitions are intended as a means of experimenting with different ways to present information and may range from audio components to tactile objects. For example, Darger’s Cast of Characters is featured both as a wall graphic and in scrapbook form, and songs from his records play in the exhibit space to create ambiance.
To present multiple perspectives on the work, Intuit engaged Darger scholars Michael Bonesteel, Leisa Rundquist and Mary Trent to explore how its collection reveals aspects of Darger’s life. The exhibition explores how Darger used imagery from diverse sources—such as coloring book pages, newspaper and magazine articles, and paper dolls—and pairs select works by Darger with their source materials. The show highlights Darger’s process and techniques with a special focus on select themes: his interest in weather, use of collage, incorporation of the panorama format in his works and creation of comic book scrapbooks.
Intuit encourages guests to explore the Henry Darger Room as part of the exhibition experience. Notice items related to this exhibition, such as Darger’s art making supplies, bundles and piles of magazines stacked on the table and floor, and imagery on the walls.
Get a closer look
Henry Darger: The Room Revealed is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.