In his seventh solo exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery, entitled FLUFF WAR, British artist David Shrigley continues his particular style of wry, surrealist humor through a selection of works, including a large-scale kinetic sculpture, two neon sculptures, and 100 new drawings.
The artist, whose work over the past decade has constantly delved into bizarre arrangements of material, dark, expressively minimal drawings and other approaches to the abject and the morbid that underscore his capacity to find human connection in the strangest of places. As visitors approach the gallery space, they are greeted by a two-part magenta neon sign bearing contradictory instructions: one reads “WEAR SHOES” and the other “DO NOT WEAR SHOES,” a classic Shrigley dialectical structure that delves into societal constructs and power, all posed with an absurdist lilt that makes the work elicit chuckles and groans from viewers, occasionally at the same time. The work, which seems to draw as well from the language of New York’s neon-heavy commercial history, seems to make for a strong intro to the show, framing the piece as both removed from the reality of midtown around it, and simultaneously never shying away from the consumer-oriented purposes of the gallery itself.
Another neon, further into the space, takes his work to stranger climes, however, reading “FLUFF WAR,” and accompanied by a ten foot by ten foot square enclosure akin to a miniature soccer stadium or a giant air hockey table. Trapped inside are clusters of black wooly fluff being blown about a smooth white floor by gusts of wind coming in through surrounding vents.
It’s a work that could be defined as “definitive Shrigley,” posing bodies engaged in “combat” with materials that ultimately deconstruct or disarm any overly serious reading in favor of a moment of disarmament. Shrigley’s ability to take a momentary gesture and turn it towards his unique brand of humor makes for a series of works where the viewer must simultaneously surrender to his vision of the world, and find themselves left with little concrete understanding beyond sensations of time and mortality. This is material that regularly appears in his drawings as well, combining image and text to deliver comically deadpan messages that resonate on philosophical, ethical, and political levels. The artist’s large color works rendered in acrylic and oil bar read immediately like signs or advertisements, while the small black ink drawings are graphically complex, and invite the viewer to inspect closely. The benign declarations and mischievous wishes in Shrigley’s works express the pathos, tedium, irony, and oftentimes ridiculousness of everyday life.
Offering both increasingly complex networks of meaning and concise exercises in expression, Shrigley’s show is a particularly strong presentation that drives at the heart of why the artist’s work remains so compelling
The show closes June 15th.
— C. Reinhardt
David Shrigley: Fluff War [Exhibition Site]