A Night at the Museum with Beauvais Lyons

Beauvais Lyons with a lithographic stone.

As the self-appointed Director of the Hokes Archives, for more than 40 years Beauvais Lyons has been fabricating and documenting imaginary archaeology, medical archives, folk art, zoology and most recently, a fictitious circus from Jacksboro, Tennessee. You can see some of Lyons’ work in his exhibition Ornithological Quadrupeds, a portfolio of four-legged birds currently on view at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in the UT campus through January 28, 2022.

At first, many viewers to his exhibitions have been taken in by his faithful use of historical methods and the plausibility of his fictive worlds. As his art may be understood as a form of parody, Lyons uses various ironic signals to call attention to the work as fiction, including the name of the Hokes (as in “hoax’) Archives itself. He often accompanies his exhibitions playing the role of curator, preacher, or ringmaster. The mock-documentary aspects of his projects raise a variety of issues about role of art as a form of both fiction and truth-telling.

“Plate 321,” a lithograph from the exhibition “Reconstruction of an Aazudian Temple” which toured North America in the mid-1990s.

For his Art House presentation, Lyons will bring a selection of works from his archives to the KMA and will give a presentation about not only his work, but other artists who create mock-documentary exhibitions. His presentation will reference Antoinette LaFarge’s new book Sting in the Tale: Art Hoax, and Provocation in which LaFarge advocates for a form of mock-documentation she calls fictive art, referencing Lyons’ projects and others, including the “Centaur Excavations of Volos,” in the Hodges Library on the UT Knoxville campus.

“Plate 321,” a lithograph from the exhibition “Reconstruction of an Aazudian Temple” which toured North America in the mid-1990s.

Beauvais Lyons is a Chancellor’s Professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he has taught printmaking since 1985 and heads the nationally ranked printmaking program. Lyons received his MFA degree from Arizona State University in 1983 and his BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980. See his web site for information on his various projects. Lyons’ one-person exhibitions have been presented at over 80 museums and galleries in the United States and abroad. His prints are in several notable public collections including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. PA. In 2002 he received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at the Fine Arts Academy in Poznañ, Poland. In 2014 he received the Santo Foundation Artist Award, and in 2017 he received the SECAC Excellence in Teaching Award.

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