David Shrigley. (Reviews: New York)

By Caniglia, Julie | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

David Shrigley. (Reviews: New York)


Caniglia, Julie, Artforum International


ANTON KERN GALLERY

The phrase "I've had a brilliant idea" might seem like a flash of ego, especially when inked over a picture of an electrical power station rather than above the more traditional lightbulb. But taken in the context of the sixty works (all but one 2002) in David Shrigley's first solo show in New York, this altered photo read more as acknowledgment that the artist's ideas are neither rare nor precious but a constant source from which he chums out drawings, books, sculptures, photos, and public interventions.

Shrigley's drawings and texts show no signs of formal art training, though he attended the Glasgow School of Art. Deliberately abject, primitive, and lowtech, his work is, if not childlike, certainly stuff that a child could make. That doesn't make him a nouveau Dubuffet, however, absorbing "outsider" techniques into a faux-naif style. Instead, reveling in human foibles and revealing a calculated vulnerability through his emotional outpourings, Shrigley bears similarities to contemporaries like Sean Landers and Chris Johansen. But where Landers has hubris to deal with and Johansen hangs on to hope and good vibes, Shrigley slips and slides between horror and humor. In a text piece, he writes of showing up at his boss's house intending to kill her, but the ensuing fight turns into slapstick Another piece pictures a diamond-shaped being with arms and legs and reads:

DESPERATE LAUGHTER NERVOUS CHATTER AS THE LITTLE CREATURE DASHES ACROSS THE FLOOR / SOME CONFUSION PEOPLE ARE EMBARRASSED BUT FAINTLY AMUSED / THEN THE CREATURE'S PURPOSE BECOMES APPARENT AND PANIC SETS IN. CHAOS, SCREAMING.

Like Beavis and Butt-head, Shrigley's work is so dumb it's smart. Balloon is a photo of a balloon amid rumpled bed sheets; embellished with a smiley face, the object conjures both dorky charm and loneliness. …

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