What then, I wondered, is the best way to really witness the mind of a child—without making comparisons to art made by adults trying to be children again?
“Listening to these recordings is the closest,” Belott tells me, referring to the slightly unnerving soundtrack playing at Gavin Brown: a two-hour looping compilation that the artist assembled from found recordings, sourced online or at junk shops.
“A great deal of these are of kids flipping out in their bedroom, all hopped up on Coca-Cola and candy,” he says. “They’re imitating TV or radio personalities. They’re teasing animals. They’ll make a song that wanders around—it’s about eating cheese, or not wanting to go to bed, that then it turns into a second of a Stevie Wonder song that was probably a hit at the time. And then it’s about their dog.” I could relate; I’d spent the previous weekend on a long drive to Canada with a three-year old who alternated between elaborate Thomas the Tank Engine narratives and screaming along to a single by the metal band Mastodon. Kids these days are born postmodern, and scoff at our fusty divisions between high and low culture.
Having constructed a veritable mini-museum of children’s art here in Harlem, Belott has hopes that the exhibition will tour; there are also plans to publish a book spotlighting Rhoda Kellogg’s archive, which the artist cheekily refers to as “the most valuable worthless collection.”
Belott conceived of “Dr. Kid President Jr.” as a kind of secular church, a sanctuary for unbridled creativity. “Children’s art is a natural force,” he says. “No matter what point in the day it is, there’s some kid making art. It’s unstoppable.”