David Shrigley at the Hayward

I’ve known of Shrigley’s work for quite a while now: I think it’s been four or five years since I first picked up his “Worried Noodles” book and CD and became a fan. Back then, he was just barely on the rise, and catching just enough attention to get big name musicians – David Byrne and Grizzly Bear, for example – to contribute to a compilation of musical interpretations of his art. Here’s one example I found on YouTube (and, arguably, one of the best Grizzly Bear songs out there):

Shrigley has always been the so-bad-it’s-art comic artist. He’s not really the guy with a punchline (such as that xkcd dude might be), he’s never had the real aesthetic skill, but somehow you always wanted to get a book’s worth of his stuff … what he makes is immediately digestible, re-readable, and it grows in hilarity through an incessant piling up image after image. He draws until he drops, and yet never seems to improve in skill. But his wit is sharp as a tack, and his playfullness is adorable.

So I guess it was a bit of a delightful surprise when I saw that Shrigley was having a solo show at the Hayward Gallery. It seemed too sober for him to show at any gallery with a big name. Not that he’s selling out or anything, but rather that a white-cube would be too grounded and serious for his approach. And, indeed, when you first step into the gallery, it feels a bit contrived, like he’s been asked to prove something. In the very first room, a big metal gate blocks your access to the rest of the gallery, the bars spelling out “DO NOT LINGER AT THE GATE” in his rough scrawl.

It’s so big and obvious and unsubtle, you kind of feel like “oooooooh he’s making a point here.” And, frankly, a lot of his drawings make similar points, but their lack of grandiosity and inherent effortlessness make them so much more digestible and poignant. Take for example the following “statement” artwork he has on display:

Something about it’s crappiness makes it legitimate, and less self-defeating in its own artistic ambitions. On the other hand, his expansion into animation was very fun:

It’s hard not to think of those immensely popular Don Hertzfeld cartoons that we going around early in the 2000s:

He also uses animation to play on our ideas, as viewers, that whenever an artist does something that isn’t static, it means were going to see something “happen.” He had a few animations like these, and it was amazing how many people actually stood around and watched every minute of them:

In fact, by the time you enter into the second room, the exhibit catches its stride, and is a complete joy from work-to-work. The whole thing takes about an hour to walk through, and is thoroughly enjoyable as such. Since when can’t an exhibit be pure fun and wonder from start to end? Shrigley might be pandering to us, but it’s exactly because of his pandering that his exhibition of the Hayward is a blast to visit.

Here are just a couple more that i found particularly relevant to my current interests


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