NY mu­seum hon­ors Ker­mit the Frog and his cre­ator

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Jim Hen­son, the re­lent­less in­no­va­tor who gave the world Ker­mit the Frog and "The Mup­pet Show," is get­ting a per­ma­nent trib­ute in New York, nearly 30 years af­ter his death. If rarely seen on cam­era, Hen­son lived and breathed television, hook­ing adult Amer­i­cans on pup­pets, turn­ing pup­petry into prime-time en­ter­tain­ment and for 25 years gave life to Ker­mit, the world's most fa­mous pup­pet.

Not only did he cre­ate "The Mup­pet Show" and sev­eral of Ker­mit's con­tem­po­raries, he gave birth to Elmo, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie of "Se­same Street" fame, "Frag­gle Rock" and movies "Dark Crys­tal" (1982) and "Labyrinth" (1986). On Satur­day, the Mu­seum of the Mov­ing Im­age in Queens opens a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plor­ing Hen­son's work, chal­leng­ing vis­i­tors to look be­yond his most fa­mous cre­ations at the as­ton­ish­ingly breadth of his ca­reer. The ex­hi­bi­tion brings to­gether more than 300 ob­jects, among them a Ker­mit the Frog, and more than 180 items be­queathed to the mu­seum by the Hen­son fam­ily. When Hen­son came to see pup­petry as a se­ri­ous art form, in­spired partly by a trip to Europe in 1958, pup­pets at that time in Amer­ica were for chil­dren, said Bar­bara Miller, cu­ra­tor of "The Jim Hen­son Ex­hi­bi­tion."

"The work and the pro­jects that he de­vel­oped-they were al­ways fight­ing against this no­tion that pup­pets are just for kids," she said. "'The Mup­pet Show' was ob­vi­ously the most suc­cess­ful way that he broke that bar­rier. It was pro­grammed as prime time on Sun­day nights. It was fam­ily hour so it was ev­ery­body." Merg­ing com­edy, fan­tasy, po­etry, mu­sic and song, it was a sur­pris­ing blend of weekly US television show which ran from 1976 to 1981, de­fined a gen­er­a­tion and in­spired eight fea­ture-length films from 1979 to 2014.

'In­no­vate'

But unusu­ally, Hen­son walked away when the show was still in its prime, although he con­tin­ued to give voice and move­ment to Ker­mit un­til his sud­den death from pneu­mo­nia aged 53 in 1990. "He was wor­ried he was go­ing to start re­peat­ing him­self. The last thing my dad would want is that Ker­mit just keeps do­ing the same thing," son Brian ex­plained in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter. "My dad's num­ber one thing was don't re­peat your­self. In­no­vate. Do some­thing new."

Hen­son demon­strated that in­no­va­tion time and again with short, Os­car-nom­i­nated 1965 sur­re­al­ist film "Time Piece," then with "Dark Crys­tal", "Frag­gle Rock" and "Labyrinth" star­ring Davie Bowie. Each time, he cre­ated a new uni­verse made pos­si­ble by ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy. The pur­pose of the ex­hi­bi­tion is not only to show­case his work but to il­lus­trate "how things hap­pened and what the cre­ative pro­cesses were," Miller said.

"I wanted peo­ple com­ing in with an idea of who Jim Hen­son is and leav­ing with a more com­plex idea of who he is and maybe more ques­tions than they had when they came in," she ex­plained. A trav­el­ing ver­sion of the ex­hi­bi­tion is on view at the Mu­seum of Pop Cul­ture in Seat­tle and will travel the United States and the world over the next five years. "We know 'The Mup­pets,' we know the char­ac­ters on 'Se­same Street,' maybe a cou­ple of other things-but one of the goals is to re­ally deepen our un­der­stand­ing of Jim Hen­son as an artist, as a cre­ative thinker, as an experimental film­maker," said Miller. "And re­ally see a big­ger pic­ture of him as a cre­ator."

Jour­nal­ists get a preview of The Jim Hen­son Ex­hi­bi­tion.

Miss Piggy is dis­played at The Jim Hen­son Ex­hi­bi­tion.

Big Bird (L), Cookie Mon­ster (2nd L), Elmo (3rd L), and Prairie Dawn Mup­pet are dis­played at The Jim Hen­son Ex­hi­bi­tion.

Ker­mit the Frog waves from his po­si­tion at The Jim Hen­son Ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­seum of the Mov­ing Im­age in New York. — AFP photos

A jour­nal­ist plays with a pup­pet at The Jim Hen­son Ex­hi­bi­tion.

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