Tuesday, April 27, 2010
What is the function of the grotesque and humor in contemporary art practices? Baktin in the History of laughter and Situation Comedy writes about the link between the grotesque and humor as a strategy to address contemporary society’s norms and ills. I'd like to look at specific art works that deal with a social commentary using the grosteque and humor as a point of departure. Courtney Johnson and Doctor Lakra are two practicing artist who's paintings and drawings awkwardly invite viewers to consider ideas of feminism, sexism and power. These two-artist deal with images of abject females having strength about them in grotesque forms. Courtney Johnson paints about feral woman free in the untamed Wild West and Lakras images of the uncontrollable sex goddess become threats to male centric societies. These images test our understanding of the role of gender and specifics of what could be our nature.
The nature of Johnson’s paintings reflect what Barbara Creed discusses in The Monstrous Femine; Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, as archaic mother or abject mother. The woman who exist alone, before and without men. These wild women are set in space's outside that of what we know as the pioneering days; a revisionist history of the wild west are portrayed in Johnson’s images. These images show women figures dying out in the plains of the wilderness. Women shaping the landscape with their existence. Johnson’s paintings of twin like figures refer to a simultaneous existence both being inside and out. The absence of the male figure and the portrayal of woman not as the picture of perfection but that of aging, decrepit, and seeping into madness comments on an art history where woman often are portrayed as beautiful and eternal, the object of male painters. Courtney’s paintings place woman as the subject and give agency to their actions and existence.
In Mexico, Doctor Lacra, an artist based in Oaxaca and Mexico City creates images of shit, penises sweating, spurting sperm, women as sex goddess massaging eyeballs and farting out smoke. Lacra chooses to make public work that invites people into a greater narrative of dismay through an abject humor. These images are drawn out in a graphic style using bold lines reminiscent of Mexican graphic novellas. The grotesque visual language used in these paintings comment on what can be seen as a masachonistic Latin American culture. The work looks at the physical beauty of women and past renderings of women as goddess . The sex goddess/object women in Lacra's paintings command a power over the lust stricken men. He paints men filled with grief and frustration due to the lack of control over these women. Lacra's sex driven images, public displays of people pooping, and strong bodied women bring the viewer closer to a reality that we choose to remove are self from.
These artist use the grotesque as a visual stratedgy in confronting status quo's and questioning roles that are socially encoded. Gender roles get looked at and turned upside down. The woman as pioneer, the man frustrated by the earth goddess. These artist both paint pictures narrating from the margins with a realistic take on how things really might be.