david shrigley at stephen friedman

7 March 2012 § Leave a comment

Humour is not hard to find in postmodern art – a typical definition of postmodernism will probably include humour alongside parody and irony – and we are all familiar with works like Maurizio Cattelan‘s Pope Struck by a Meteorite (below), Jeff KoonsRabbit and Gavin Turk‘s Blue Plaque. But this is not laugh out loud humour – or should I say nowadays lol humour – this is more like the knowing chuckle of the West End audience in a performance of an Alan Bennett play. So when we do get a work of art that we can really laugh at (presuming that we are not laughing at its awfulness) it is instinctive to ask ourselves whether this really is art or not. Surely we should not be lol-ing at proper art?

But lol I did at the wonderful David Shrigley‘s exhibition at Stephen Friedman. Shrigley of course has a big retrospective currently showing at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank (to be reviewed later) and Friedman has taken the opportunity to use both his West End gallery spaces for a parallel exhibition. A lot of his work of course is on paper but he has broadened his output to include sculpture, animation, taxidermy and photography.

The first gallery space at Steven Friedman is taken over by the darkly humorous and rather disconcerting Bombs, an installation of black ceramic sculptures, subverting the destructive nature of a real bomb using a rather delicate material. In the next a sculptured word - writing - sits upon a small wall mounted platform, no explanation required.

A clever animation in the back room is of an artist faithfully depicting his model on canvas: the breasts are first (is that what that the artist is really interested in?), then the rest of the body and head, until finally after careful consideration, adding a smile to replace the glum expression of the model. The cynical suggestion of course is that art is there to please – the artist changing the reality to fit the expectations and commercial realities.

The most humorous works are those on paper over the road at Friedman’s other gallery space. Too many to describe and I do not have any images, but some random images below just for fun or for some more examples of his work have a look at the Steven Friedman Gallery website or better still drop in next time you are in the West End!

David Shrigley is at the Steven Friedman gallery until 10 March 2012.

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