Contemporary art is rarely, if ever, laugh-out-loud funny. So it’s no surprise that a raucous atmosphere does not exactly prevail at the Francine Seders Gallery, in spite of its hosting a show devoted to humor in art. KUOW art critic Gary Faigin does his report cracking a few broad smiles while walking through the exhibition, and he joins us now with a serious look at some amusing and not-so-amusing art.
The fact is that much contemporary art shares with humorists, satirists, and cartoonists an ironic, even jaundiced view of contemporary life, including a willingness to exploit stereotypes to make a point (Roger Shimomura), to inflate pop icons to heroic proportions (Scott Fife), or to turn old artistic conventions on their head (Michael Brophy, Charles Krafft). Any of those artists, and many others, could have equally well fit into the current show. Humor may well be one of the traits that distinguishes recent art from the many eras which preceded it, eras in which art celebrated shared values, channeled the sublime, flattered the powerful, or otherwise treated of subjects where humor was a marginal, even unwelcome, consideration. We like to think that Goya was making fun of the bedraggled-looking royals when he painted the "Family of Charles IV," but it’s highly unlikely that either his titled sitters or their contemporaries saw it that way.