Humor in Contemporary Art
For centuries, art was denoted as creative expressions of serious concepts, people, or events in time. More recently, what is considered to be art has greatly expanded and the required craftsmanship element of art has lessened, giving rise to a number of classically untrained individuals making huge imprints on the artistic world. Specifically, the established status or importance of subject for art to be considered “worthy” has almost vanished allowing artists to capture images and themes that span the emotional spectrum.
Humor is typically conveyed verbally, through established comedians or just between friends, but has seen a rise in usage in the visual world. Comics may be viewed as the original form of visual humor although they heavily depend on the dialogue between characters to convey their message. Humor is important to contemporary art because it can be used to alleviate the tension that certain pieces create or shed light on the ridiculousness of certain modern problems. Just as a “joke can resolve (or cause) the most difficult situation to a consideration of how satire can sway public/political opinion, humor, when used correctly and strategically, allows an artist to effectively communicate with their audience in ways that are both immediate and subtle” (Molon).
|"Brilliant Disguise" (Zzep)|
"Sex" (Salles)One of my favorite contemporary works that relies on humor to convey it’s deeper meaning is a piece entitled “No Shoes, No Shirt, You’re Probably Rich” by Alejandro Diaz. The piece mimics the common “No shoes, no shirt, no service” signs that are seen in the windows of many businesses but alters the well-known phrase to play on income inequality. Although the real sign is perceived to mandate a minimum level of formality or dress, Diaz’s piece draws attention to the sense of entitlement or “above-the-law”-ness that wealthy citizens may feel or display. Instead of a long essay about privilege, Diaz succinctly and lightly touches on the issue and lets the viewer infer the deeper meaning while also tipping their hat to his crafty, dry, and subtle humor.
|"No Shoes, No Shirt, You're Probably Rich" (2015)|
Diaz, Alejandro. No Shoes, No Shirt, You’re Probably Rich. Accessed September 30, 2019. https://www.artspace.com/alejandro-diaz/no-shoes-no-shirt-youre-probably-rich-1.
Hsu, James. “Illustrated Humor and Social Commentary, Eduardo Salles Art Gallery.” Third Monk(blog), October 10, 2013. http://thirdmonk.net/knowledge/illustrated-humor-social-commentary-eduardo-salles-art-gallery.html.
Molton, Dominic. “Anything for a Laugh: Humor in Contemporary Art | Art+Culture Projects | Artsy.” Accessed September 30, 2019. https://www.artsy.net/show/art-plus-culture-project-anything-for-a-laugh-humor-in-contemporary-art.
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