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Art museums sometimes get a bad rap. Maybe this is caused by flashbacks to unpleasant school excursions from our youth, when we were shepherded through boring exhibits while pretentious docents blathered on about Etruscan art. Maybe it’s the fear that we won’t know the artists or their work, and will be forced to face our own cultural inadequacies. Or maybe we just want some action, and feel that museums won’t deliver the goods.

But there are those other times when a museum steers clear of this bad rap by filling its space with compelling art and getting on with the business of making you wish its exhibits would never end.

This is exactly what you’ll find at the Krannert Art Museum, which is host to a new, multimedia exhibit titled Blown Away. The opening reception for the exhibit was held last night at 8 p.m.

Curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox, Blown Away centers on a simple but powerful theme: explosions. As the exhibition brochure notes, we are a culture inundated with things that blow up, from “Hollywood blockbuster films” to “television news stories pertaining to the current war in Iraq.” And our reactions to these explosions are interesting and complex: fascination, fear and a compulsive desire for duplication. Explosions, the exhibit’s literature claims, “are simultaneously unnerving and beautiful.”

While Blown Away offers a charge for any art lover, it promises a little extra spark for a certain kind of person. For instance: Were you that child who strapped your G.I. Joe on a bottle rocket and waited for the flames? Or: Were you the kid who adorned a Barbie in sequined high heels and a handbag full of snap caps? Or: Have you ever lit a match just to watch it burn?

The exhibit draws on work from more than 20 artists, including Gerhard Richter, E.V. Day, Barnaby Furnas and Sarah Pickering.

Blown Away runs from January 25–March 30, 2008 at the Krannert Art Museum (408 E. Peabody Drive).

Photo by Justine Bursoni