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Fuller Craft Museum’s new exhibit is a barrel of monkeys

The Fuller Craft Museum will be overrun by monkeys with “The Great Monkey Project,” an exhibit of life-size cardboard monkeys by sculptor James Grashow.
Robert Grant
The Fuller Craft Museum will be overrun by monkeys with “The Great Monkey Project,” an exhibit of life-size cardboard monkeys by sculptor James Grashow.

Monkeys are taking over a gallery at the Fuller Craft Museum, starting Feb. 15, for an exhibit called “The Great Monkey Project.”

No need for worry, though. The life-size monkeys are made entirely of cardboard — all 80 of them — by Connecticut artist James Grashow. They will hang from the ceiling in what the museum’s promotional material calls a “whimsical theater of simian forms” that “elevates a throw-away material into the best kind of monkey business” through Sept. 30.

Curator Beth McLaughlin said she had seen Grashow’s monkeys exhibited in the stairway at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln and thought they would fit perfectly in the Fuller’s two-story Atrium Gallery.

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McLaughlin also thought the light-hearted nature of the work would be a good balance to some of the more serious shows at the Fuller, which currently has an exhibit looking at the human impact of the opioid epidemic.

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“When people turn the corner and are presented with this raucous crowd of cardboard primates swimming above their heads, it will really be fun for kids, for everyone,” she said.

McLaughlin noted, though, that Grashow’s cardboard art has a more serious aspect; he’s said that the temporary nature of the material reminds him of his mortality and helps him deal with his eventual demise.

“I like that he’s working with cardboard,” she added. “How many Amazon boxes do we all have showing up on our doorsteps every day? And to see an artist take that material and transform it into a work of art is particularly potent at this time.”

McLaughlin said she also was struck by Grashow’s affection for his medium, and the way he personifies it — suggesting that cardboard “gets” that it’s only here for a short time before becoming trash, and is “so grateful for the opportunity” to become something else.

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For decades, Grashow has been working with cardboard to create pieces ranging in size from large environmental installations to small elaborate “bouquets” that feature detailed buildings and entire cities blooming amid sculpted flowers and leaves.

He was dubbed the “Cardboard Bernini” in a documentary film that followed the construction — and disintegration — of his “Corrugated Fountain,” which was modeled after the stone fountains of Rome and Florence and included a sea god in a chariot flanked by seahorses, dolphins, and other creatures.

The cardboard art “fits squarely” in the Fuller Craft Museum’s mission of promoting contemporary craft, McLaughlin said.

Myron Fuller, a geologist and hydrologist who was born in Brockton, set up a trust fund to create an art museum and cultural center in Brockton in memory of his family. The museum first opened in 1969, changing its name and focus to contemporary crafts in 2004.

The Fuller Craft Museum is located at 455 Oak St., Brockton. The museum will hold a public reception for Grashow on April 5 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at [email protected]