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 Koons‘ Rabbit 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.
- David Shrigley: one of the cleverest, funniest conceptual artists (thetruthiswhere.wordpress.com)
- In pictures: Shrigley’s weird world (news.bbc.co.uk)
- David Shrigley: art’s White Rabbit (guardian.co.uk)
- david shrigley: brain activity at hayward gallery, london (designboom.com)
- David Shrigley: Brain Activity – A Reality Check for Modern Art (rattlingoastick.wordpress.com)
littlewhitehead getting bigger
16 November 2010 § Leave a comment
A pair of legs emerge from pink balloons that have floated to the ceiling. A boy with a Darth Vader mast sits alone in a row of school desks. Hoodies gather menacingly around a hidden corner. A hooded hostage is tied to a metal chair.
Welcome to the world of Littlewhitehead. Craig Little and Blake Whitehead are the two halves of this Glasgow-based art duo that take their inspiration from the city’s working class and bleak industrial landscape. Darkly humorous their work is initially reminiscent of Maurizio Cattelan pieces like the inverted policemen Frank & Jamie. But where the Italian gently mocks the system and the art world itself Littlewhitehead investigate rather darker aspects of life. There is the latent violence in the group of hoodies gathered in It Happened in the Corner; the schoolboy at the desks in Spam wears the helmet of the evil Darth Vader but is he lonely, alienated or violent?; the pretty pink balloons in Sentient Orbs have been cheerfully collected but the happiness is negated by the greed which has raised the owner to the ceiling.
“Within our work there is a strong connection between the reality that surrounds us and some kind of escapism to a made-up world,” littlewhitehead explain. “This made-up world is the construct of a dialogue between the two of us, which infuses scenes from an encyclopaedic range of references, from video nasties, to current events, and subconscious musings. It is in that world, unlike the one we actually inhabit, where we can fulfil these sinister desires.”
I initially dismissed their work at Saatchi, where It Happened was exhibited in Newspeak Part 1, but on further viewing I now appreciate their work more. I think that perhaps in a new century these darker aspects of life have increasing resonance and relevance.
For collectors their work is currently extraordinarily good value – mostly well under £10,000 a piece – and in my mind is well worth considering. A little fairy tells me that they have something very big coming up this year (not allowed to tell, sorry) and now would be a great time to take a closer look at these interesting artists.