5 April 2008

I discovered this little gem of acknowledgment on Art Review Magazine’s website written by Jonathan T.D. Neil about the lack of satire in the art world.

Which leads me to ask: Why don’t we see more of this kind of thing from the art world? Where is our satire? – the one that does not point its finger at the perceived idiocies of the public or the government but at those of artists and artworks themselves? (Bill Powhida, with his faux New York magazine covers and Art Newspaper broadsheets, is bravely alone in this task at the moment; but then so was Ad Reinhardt in his day.) I think we do artists and their art a disservice if we find them too delicate for – or unworthy of – a few barbs. Of course art is a serious business. But it is also quite often absurd. Which is why the parallel to our contemporary political theater is so apt.

Neil isn’t alone in this assessment, if fact Richard Klein from the Aldrich Museum discussed the possibility of organizing a show of my work along side Ad Reinhardt’s comic paintings from the 50’s at Aqua this year in Miami. Klein felt that it would provide some insight into the art world from two different historical perspectives. I’m not claiming that mine is historical only that it reflects my cultural experience. Whether or not it will stand the test of time, which people often question about my work, might best be answered by the relevance of Reinhardt’s work fifty years later. Rienhardt seems to be one of the few artist’s who tackled the absurdity of the art world then, and it is a bit lonely working this way now. Some of my closest friends don’t trust the work, and think I ought to be using my visibility to raise more important issues. I disagree and feel that artists like Jen Dalton and Guy Richards Smit are also dealing with the absurdity of the art world while creating meaningful works of art that address class, gender, and power in often hilarious ways. Smit’s new comic book about his character, Jonathan Grossmalerman, is a black comedy and satire about the intersection of wealth and politics. In this case, a wealthy Russian collector dies at the opening after being poised with Polonium. I picked up a copy at Spoonbill in Williamsburg, and have to acknowledge Smit’s work as a cornerstone of my own practice. His character based videos and paintings along with David Kramer and Jim Torok’s work made the use of text and narrative seem like vital devices for critique.

While I agree with Neil’s assessment that this is lonely work, I’m not making a lot of friends here, I don’t think I am alone at all. Artists like Eric Heist may not employ overt comedy, but are wickedly satirical. A close reading of Michael Waugh’s work reveals a deeply satirical view of artistic and political commissions, and the artists relationship to the collector. Jade Townsend sends up the importance of the object in the contemporary market with unrestrained zeal, materialism, materialism, materialism.

I’m thrilled Neil recognized my work in his call for more satirical work questioning the fucked up relationships in the art world, but I could curate a show tomorrow that would answer it. Any takers?

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