Helena Hernández, Dionisis Kavallieratos, Michael Kirkham, Nathan Menglesis, Joe Neave, Martin Skauen, Makiko Tanaka and Witte Wartena.
Bar Babette Kosmetiksalon.
“What is this - some kind of joke?”
An art exhibition would normally not be the first place you would think of visiting to experience humour. If you want to hear (or be the subject of) a joke you would probably rather walk into a bar with your (international) friends.
This show concentrates on contemporary artists that all express a lot of humour, some of the works might even be seen as a cartoon or a comic image. The work in this show is all made in traditional media, such as watercolour, paint or (coloured) pencil, and with traditional subjects such as landscape/cityscape, portrait, still life or nude, however all the work is at the same time very contemporary.
Museums and art galleries are often thought of as places where you walk around in silence with your hands behind your back. However, making a distinction between so-called «high art» and «low art» is not so always easy. [John Storey] (sic.) argues that popular culture is a category invented by intellectuals. Popular culture may be found in earlier historical periods, but the concept only emerges in the late eighteenth century in intellectual accounts of “folk” culture. (...) Whatever the method deployed, those who wish to make the case for the division between high and popular culture generally insist that the division between the two is absolutely clear. Moreover, not only is this division clear, it is transhistorical – fixed for all time. (...) There are many problems with this certainty. For example, William Shakespeare is now seen as the epitome of high culture, yet as late as the nineteenth century his work was very much a part of popular theatre. (Cultural Theory and Popular Culture ).
The context of a piece of art can change the perception of the work, but should we not try to be objective? Why should we not be able to see art in a pub or comics in a museum? Can’t there be humour in very serious (so-called) high art? I believe humour can bridge the gab between (what we call) high art, and popular culture. Laughter can help people understand complex ideas or cope with sad situations. Comic(al) art can make one have a sudden realization or expression of grief. Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus and Pop-art have used humour very effectively, but it is wrong to say that the art from before or after that time does not express humour.
In his book Infinite Jest, Paul Barolsky writes about the «Wit and Humour in Italian Renaissance Art». Seventeenth century genre painters often depicted humorous scenes from daily life. Is the reason we tend to think of the jokes in Shakespeare’s plays as not very funny, because we don ́t get the references from that time? Perhaps we don’t laugh at the Impressionists because we are not used to laughing in a museum?
So next time you walk in to a gallery and see an Expressionist, a Surrealist and a Modernist, turn to them, take one look, and say; “What is this - some kind of joke?”