Nov 14, 2011

REVIEW | Humor in Art | Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art | Dominic Molon

Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art, Domonic Molon, Michael Rooks, 1996,
Art isnt all about the impression it leaves, it's also about the emotion it gives you when your observing it.  The book,  "Situation Comedy:  Humor in Recent Art",  states the opinion that comedy in art isnt always pretty,  in fact  its usually quite shocking.   In recent years, during this period of widespread political upheavel, artists internationally have produced a heathly dose of humor, both light-hearted and dark, into their work, utilizing the leveling power of comedy and irony to question authority and to encourage laughter in the mueseum.

Artists throughout the ages have created works that use humor to convey ideas that can be understood best through the vocabulary of comedy. Art is endless and relative and can be whatever you want it to be.  Major comedic works in contemporary art has been defined in major group exhibitions that concern many human issues such as social justice, economic,  inequity, political,environmental issues and many more.   Many people will never truily understand the humor in art  The emphasis on art as a form of an agent for social change is particulary at odds in our society making it hard for people to cooperate and take in the sence of the absurd.

One of the most significant ways that artists have manifested elements of the humorous in their work has been through a process of detournement, in which the pre-existing structures and procedures of daily life are magnified and subverted.  In this process, the mundane can become comically estranged and fantasting, allowing the viewer to recognize the message through its absurdity.

Erwin Wurm, Looking for a Bomb, 2003,  Jack Hanley Gallery, San Fransisco

One picture that caught my attention was the work done by Ervin Wurum, where a man is shown sticking his arm through the fly of another in an exaggerated and ridiculous attempt to search for a prize in the trousers.  The sexual and ridiculous action has a dark comedic relationship to the anti-terrorist security measures taken around the world in the wake of the September 11 attacks.  Some people choose to find the humor and some will not.

Another artist's work that caught my attention was "The Hunt," by Christian Jankowski. In the video, Jankowski takes he quintessential event of supermarket shopping and elevates it to mock epic proportions.  The means of acquiring sustenance for oneself or ones family in the modern age and contrasting it with the action of hunting for food in a more primitive time.

"Situation Comedy" presents a selection, or should I say a mess, of video, sound installations, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs. Situation Comedy was written with fascinating feedback on different artists but to me, was put together really poorly and was crammed with too many artists.  The book was hard to read due to the scattered images throughout the pages. You had information on an artist, and the image of his artwork could be found pages before it or pages after. I had to constantly keep flipping back and forth to find out who the book was talking about

Tom Friedman, Untitled, 1996, Neal Meltzer Fine Art, Inc.

The image above is a sculptor made by Tom Friedmen that targets comedy in the loony toonish style of manner.  More like the coyote and roadrunner type of cartoon on a real life surface.   While reading I took a big interest on this artist and had to find more of his works online, due to the fact that the book lacks information or aknowledgment on this artist.  Because the book is so small and is filled with an immense ammount of artists,  a lot of information I'd like to know was left out.

Like art, comedy is endless.  Everyone is different so anyone can find comedy in practically anything.
- Allan Gindic


  1. ContributorNov 28, 2011 10:43 AM
    Such an interesting review. I love this trend of finding humor in our everyday lives and making a point to document it through photography. I'm glad I'm now informed with this word, detournement. If I were judging a book by it's cover I would have picked this book up in a heartbeat but I'm glad you informed us about how it is rather scatter minded and doesn't flow. Books like these most definitely can cause a frustration when trying to flow through it smoothly. Seems like it could be appreciated more if it were just a picture book. I love this idea and it seems like you enjoy this trend as well.
    -Amy Hughes