Nov 9, 2011

TREND | Humor In Contemporary Art | Does Humor Belong In Art?

Eleanor Antin, Going Home from Roman Allegories, 2004

Humor has always played a part in the arts in one way or another. William Hogarth, an Eighteenth Century British Artist used to parody other serious works such as Davinci's Last Supper. However, contemporary artist have used humor in much stranger ways than the past. There is not always just one punchline to these artworks, and sometimes we don't know if it is ok to laugh or not. Are we in on the joke, or are we part of it? John Waters, a contemporary American film maker and visual artist, once said "If you can make someone laugh who`s dead set against you, that`s the first step to winning them over to your side." (2000) 

In the picture above, Eleanor Antin, an influential performance artist, filmmaker, and installation artist uses historical figures and contemporary ideals to make us think about deeper issues in society. Most of the  figures seem to evoke some kind of power or status with their costumes, but they are sheltering themselves with modern day umbrellas. They look as though they are searching for the right path while walking steadily towards the ocean. One guy even points in another direction. There is a girl that looks as though she came from a foreign movie on the beach with her baggage and pets. It's almost as she is stuck at baggage claim in paradise. It makes me think that she is a character who feels that ignorance is bliss, while the others tread through their troubles searching for enlightenment.It makes me think of the decisions that we have to make when putting others in charge of our own well-being like in politics. There is a sense of humor yet seriousness is not abandoned. It is easy to put oneself in any one of the characters shoes at one time or another.
Cory Arcangel, Sans Simon, 2004

In Sans Simon, Cory Arcangel, a Brooklyn, New York artist who works in many different media, including drawing, music,video, performance, and video game modifications, uses his hands to cover up Paul Simon's face in a Simon and Garfunkel video. It is almost as he is showing us his connection with the under dog. Everyone knows that Paul Simon is responsible for almost all of the songwriting done in Simon and Garfunkel's music. However, most people realize that Paul Simon's best work was done while he was with Garfunkel. Plus, Garfunkel seemed to disappear after the break up while Paul Simon only became more successful. This video gives Garfunkel back his fifteen minutes of fame.This work reminds us that no matter how far we have came along, we must not forget our roots.
Brad Neely, Creased Comics

Brad Neely, a comic book artist and television writer/ producer that used to live in Austin, Texas, uses comics and television to engage us in dialogues about our inner motivations and psyches. In the artwork above, a guy who is singing karaoke thinks to himself whether or not he wants to explore his own emotions of love or to give up on them completely. Most people can recognize the feeling that one experiences when he/she is about to try something new that they have not had success in before. Maybe he is trying to let someone know how he truly feels about them, but he knows that he will croak at the end where the most triumphant part is. That's the high note that he needed voice lessons for.

Contemporary art has a lot in common with the character of this comic. It is always wandering how far to verge into the unknown, and what level of confidence should be used to express that feeling. Sometimes they fail, and sometimes they rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Either way, contemporary artist are trying to keep us alive and awake to what the world is doing around us.We are more likely to take the time to process it with a little bit of laughter.

-Sam Williams


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