David Shrigley’s Ghoulish Series of Cartoons En Route to Miami
This year, the Danish Galleri Nicolai Wallner presents the work of eight artists at Art Basel in Miami Beach; highlights include subtle sculptural works by artists known for their material precision. Danish–Norwegian duo Elmgreen and Dragset, praised for their dry sense of humor and narrative, site-specific works, bring L’Etranger (2014), a fragile, existential portrait of a dog on its hind legs, either regarding itself or trapped within a mirrored surface. Also on display is a new Dan Graham pavilion, titled Come on in (2014); Graham’s other pavilions—which include the slick modernist labyrinth that appeared on the Met’s rooftop last summer—create looping, large-scale architectural environments through the use of curved surfaces and two-way mirrors.
If these works, combined with others presented by the gallery—Alicja Kwade’s sculptural interrogations of space and time, Jeppe Hein’s mirrored meditation on the mathematics of paper-folding—bring with them a sense of deliberate engineering and careful construction, they find their counter-balance in a 2014 series by David Shrigley. Shrigley, who is known for his intuitive, rudimentary, and off-kilter cartoons, has been described, by the British novelist Will Self, as a “preternaturally intelligent child…rendering the attempts of a smart-aleck adult to draw like a kid.”
Shrigley’s acrylic paintings combine visceral figures or abstractions with text; dark and at times uncomfortable, they tackle moments of confused trauma or nervous introspection. The classically trained artist has often been associated with “outsider art,” given the roughness of his lines and his apparent disregard for precision; in this latest series, his reverence for simplicity and gut-level emotional honesty is clear. The text accompanying each image—scrawled and wobbly, as if tacked as an afterthought—reads as an inner monologue, supplying each of his mangled objects with a level of humanity. “I suspect that the deformity displayed in my work,” he has said, “is a natural curse, as I am not very good at rendering beauty.” Particularly of note is the way in which he, like a disobedient child, plants red herrings in his work, mislabeling crude red streetlights as “go” or scrawling “eat the poisonous fruit if you must.”
Visit Galleri Nicolai Wallner at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2014, Booth E 11, Dec. 4–7.