Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art

  • Luis Gispert, Block Watching, (video still), 2002–03.

  • Situation Comedy, installation view, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2006.

  • Alexej Koschkarow, Pie Fight (Tortenschlacht), (video still), 2003.

  • Situation Comedy, installation view, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2006.

  • Situation Comedy, installation view, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2006.

  • Situation Comedy, installation view, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2006.

Curated by Dominic Molon, Michael Rooks

The human condition has been the subject of comedy for thousands of years, from ancient Greek theater to the daily comic strip. In the past five to ten years, however, humor has turned up with increasing frequency in contemporary art, perhaps satisfying an urgent need among artists and audiences alike to reflect upon the absurdity of daily existence. In the midst of a contentious political arena, artists have been injecting a healthy dose of humor in their work, breaking down barriers between formality and familiarity, and establishing immediate rapport with their viewers. Situation Comedy presents approximately forty of these works—a selection of video and sound installations, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs—by younger as well as more established contemporary artists.

Their approach ranges from the slapstick farce of Danish artist Peter Land’s video performances to the hilarious incongruity of British artist Gillian Wearing’s video piece The Regulator’s Vision (1995-96). In various other mediums, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and Scottish artist David Shrigley use verbal and visual jokes to thwart our elevated expectations of art and its cultural significance, while American artists Richard Prince and Paul McCarthy employ gags, quips, and shenanigans to mirror the prejudices of contemporary society, simultaneously thumbing their noses at the insular art world. Humor is also generated by playing with the narrative tropes of familiar television sitcoms, often involving the artist as a performer and plotting a course between reality and fiction. Among the works that explore this ambiguous territory are videos by German artist Christian Jankowski, which document his public interactions with somewhat offbeat figures, from a magician to a televangelist.



Dominic Molon

Dominic Molon is currently the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (RISD Museum). Molon was previously Chief Curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Photo by Walead Beshty

Michael Rooks

Michael Rooks joined the High Museum as Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in January 2010. Besides his responsibilities at the High Museum, Rooks was appointed Commissioner and co-curator of the U.S. Pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia in 2010.

Prior to joining the High Museum, Mr. Rooks held curator positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Contemporary Museum Honolulu, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.  At Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Rooks curated several group exhibitions and solo projects in addition to survey exhibitions of work by Roy Lichtenstein (1999) and H. C. Westermann (2001) for which he co-authored Westermann’s catalogue rasionné.  As curator at The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu Rooks curated more than 15 exhibitions including projects by Michael Lin, Paul Morrison, and Yoshitomo Nara. 

Exhibitions at the High Museum of Art have included Workshopping: An American Model of Architectural Practice (U.S. Pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia in 2010), KAWS: DOWN TIME, and two historical survey exhibitions entitled Picasso to Warhol: 14 Modern Masters and Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913-2013.  In conjunction with Fast Forward, Rooks commissioned major projects by Sarah Sze and Aaron Curry.

Photo by P. Seth Thompson


touring schedule

Salina Art Center
Salina, KS, United States
January 26, 2007 - April 22, 2007

MacKenzie Art Gallery
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
October 7, 2006 - January 1, 2007

Winnipeg Art Gallery
Winnipeg, Canada
June 10, 2006 - September 10, 2006

Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago, IL, United States
February 4, 2006 - April 9, 2006

The Contemporary Museum
Honolulu, HI, United States
September 9, 2005 - December 31, 2005

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