David Shrigley's New Solo FLUFF WAR Does Not Disappoint
There is so much to not like about the art world and honestly who could blame you? There's a pervasive snobbish attitude that decidedly will not quit, it's inherently based in capitalist ideology and is historically exploitative and exclusionary to most of the population. Most loathe the uncomfortable experience of walking into a gallery, being willfully ignored by staff and not understanding the conceptual, high-brow works that line the walls. Enter David Shrigley.
It's hard to imagine a world without David Shrigley. In our eyes, the man can do no wrong. For years he's been flipping the script, creating an undeniably brilliant body of work and laughing his way to unparalleled success. From our end, it seems that he could care less about the serious prestige that comes with art world glory and that in-turn only makes us like him more. While his works are profound, they don't take themselves seriously. His drawings, paintings, and installations are as democratic as they come, bringing the viewer in to interpret as they will. His drawings, blending simple text and imagery, warrant no explanation, no didactic text, or fancy museum lingo. They are completely self-explanatory and that is intrinsically unpretentious.
This month Shrigley opened his seventh (yes seventh) solo exhibition with Anton Kern Gallery in New York City. Never one to rest on his laurels, Shrigley added some very special layers to this new exhibition, FLUFF WAR. Incorporating elements of installation and neon signage, the gallery walkthrough is filled with quality moments of joy and laughter, tinged with the omnipresent dark humor of the human condition. From the gallery: “As visitors approach the gallery, they are greeted by a two-part magenta neon sign bearing contradictory instructions: one reads “WEAR SHOES” and the other “DO NOT WEAR SHOES”. The storefront window signage will seem perfectly at home to a passerby, as the gallery is located in New York's famed Fifth Avenue shopping district. Here you are initiated into the world of David Shrigley.
Inside, further into the space, is another neon sign announcing that you have entered the arena of “FLUFF WAR”, the exhibition's eponymous work. The structure of FLUFF WAR is 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. War is a cheeky misnomer for what the fluff is engaged in. Incapable of exerting its own will, the fluff is at the whim of hidden fans, randomly sequenced by a computer program, blowing at varying intervals and strengths. It remains unclear which fluff is winning or losing, what the objective is, or if there is one at all. Regardless, one can easily become an enraptured observer of this nonsensical activity.
David’s new drawings continue in his tradition of combining image and text to deliver comically deadpan messages that resonate on philosophical, ethical, and political levels. The 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.
A real treat to experience, FLUFF WAR invites even the most amateur art viewer to engage, enjoy and understand the brilliance that is David Shrigley. You don't need an arts degree to appreciate his genius. Shrigley generously invites you to investigate this wild world we live in, with all its beautiful contradictions and absurdities. Subverting what we think we know and once again, playing with our expectations on what the art world should look like.
FLUFF WAR is on view at Anton Kern Gallery in NYC through June 15th, 2019.
Article by Jessica Ross. Images courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery