What Role Does Art Play in Satire?

An animated woman laughing.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Some satirical forms, such as political cartoons, have long been walking the line between satire and art. This begs the question: Does art take itself too seriously? Furthermore, is there any room for silliness in contemporary art?

At Comfort Station in Chicago, Illinois, a group exhibition titled “Play the Fool” doesn’t leave these questions open-ended. The answer is undoubtedly, “Yes.”

“There are plenty of reasons we wouldn’t want to talk about the role of stupidity in art and life, be it fear or failure of the belief that art is too important to laugh about,” reads an official description for the event. “But avoiding the issue means we miss out on a wide range of human experience, not to mention a slew of creative possibilities.”

Monikered “a brilliant show about ‘stupid art’” by the Chicago Tribune, the group exhibition featuring sculpture, painting, and animation began with curator Ben McElroy Fuqua searching for artists whose art incorporated the “humiliations of daily life” into their artwork.

Patrick Wilkins was one of three artists whose artwork (alien and caricature-like) embodied this quality.

Miri Phelps and Zeyi Li, each with their own well-defined styles and takes on “foolishness,” round out the rest of the exhibition. While Phelps approached the subject by pointing fun at country music through sculpture, Li, a Chicagoan, used various unsettling animations to experiment with humor.

“Play the Fool” was only open for a short time, Dec. 2–31 2017, in Chicago. But the idea of taking art less seriously and using canvas, animation, or sculpture as tools to ask questions and make the art world more light-hearted and humorous continues to trend in the arts community. From a Scandinavian film satirizing a modern art museum to the Daily Telegraph’s “Social Stereotypes” feature, perhaps 2017 could be coined “The Year of Satire” in the art community.

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About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
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