artists & participants
BRIEF ORIGIN AND EXPLANATION OF THIS SHOW: Apexart asked Dave to do a show, and Dave thought of this particular kind of art, which combines image, text, and humor. He thought first of the work of David Shrigley, Raymond Pettibon, Maira Kalman and Tucker Nichols. Then Dave called Jesse Nathan, who had interned at McSweeney’s and who knew art and poetry well. So then Nathan started working with Dave to find and compile a group of artworks that met for our particular requirements. For instance, we weren’t looking for art that used text obliquely or as a design element; the text had to be narrative and had to refer in some way to the image. In some cases the text was a comment on the image made after the fact. Sometimes the two were conceived together. Some work approaches singlepanel- cartoonhood; some is closer to fine-art text-art. In most cases, even when we knew an artist, like Pettibon, had work that fit the bill, we also had to rule out a lot of stuff that didn’t. So it was an interesting process, and very rewarding, for we found so many great people, from so many disciplines, who shared this desire to draw and write together and were unafraid to make it funny, too. Below is a list of the works in the show, with some biographical information about the artists, and some explanations about how we found their work.
KEY PEOPLE WE SHOULD MENTION:
JESSE NATHAN is mentioned often below. He was a McSweeney’s intern with an interest in writing and fine art, so he was recruited to help curate this show. He went far and above the call of duty, and ended up finding a huge portion of the work you’re seeing. Let’s call him co-curator, even though it’s too late to put that on the postcards.
TUCKER NICHOLS is in the show, and was coerced into helping to organize it. His judgment was crucial in the hanging and ordering of it, and we are forever in his debt. He also did the apologies banana.
ALL AT APEXART: They are great people who know what they’re doing. Kerri, Steven, Ben and Abigail were a crack team throughout the process. They do God’s work here at this nonprofit space.
THE MUSIC YOU’RE HEARING: The music that will play for six weeks straight in this gallery, with a few small breaks, is Worried Noodles, a compilation of songs with lyrics by David Shrigley and music by people like David Byrne, Grizzly Bear, the Liars, Deerhoof, Yacht, Islands, Trans Am, and many others. It’s available at www.worriednoodles.com (The story’s this: Shrigley made a recordless record called Worried Noodles. People were so taken with the drawings that they started to ask him to turn it into an actual, music-filled album. And that’s what happened.) Quick Artist Guide:
WORKS OF ART IN THE SHOW Lots of Things Like This curated by Dave Eggers, April 2 to May 10, 2008 1. Raymond Pettibon 2. Shel Silverstein 3. Tucker Nichols 4. Leonard Cohen 5. David Mamet 6. Shel Silverstein 7. David Shrigley 8. Tucker Nichols 9. Chris Johanson 10. Tucker Nichols 12. Tucker Nichols 14. Tucker Nichols 15. Tucker Nichols 16. Olga Scholten 17. Tucker Nichols 18. Tucker Nichols 19. Tucker Nichols 20. Tucker Nichols 21. Olga Scholten 22. Tucker Nichols 24. Philip Guston 25. CM Evans 26. CM Evans 27. CM Evans 28. CM Evans 29. Steve Powers 30-35. Kenneth Koch 36. Maira Kalman 37. Maira Kalman 38. Jason Logan 39. Maira Kalman 40. Maira Kalman 41. Maira Kalman 42-45. David Mamet 46. Paul Hornschemeier 47. CM Evans
ABOUT THE ART AND ARTISTS IN THIS SHOW (WITH NOTES WHERE APPLICABLE AND USEFUL):
About JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT: In the late 1970s his art first appeared on the streets of SoHo in carefully orchestrated acts of graffiti, phrases and symbols tagged “Samo.” Basquiat’s later paintings and drawings continually recalled the commercial logos and street icons of his earlier graffiti art. Here we’re presenting a few reproductions of his drawings — which tended to be funnier and more pithy than his paintings, which also included text, but in more oblique ways. Jean-Michel Basquiat, A House Built By Frank Lloyd Wright, © 2008 The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Jean-Michel Basquiat, Suite of Fourteen Drawings, © 2008 The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
ABOUT DAVID BERMAN: He is a poet — the author of Actual Air— and is the singer-songwriter for the Silver Jews. He makes poems, songs, cartoons, and other things. He was born in 1967, in Williamsburg, Virginia, and now lives in Nashville. We didn’t know he drew, but on a hunch, Jesse Nathan, co-curator of this show, emailed him, and then David sent us a batch of drawings. David Berman, Spring Break Hitlers, 1999, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, Sea-Nerd, 2000, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, 2 Floridas and One Duane Allman, 2001, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, Don’t Worry It’s Just a Phase, 2000, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, Switzerland..., 1991, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, EKG On a Candlestick, 1992, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, Lou Reed Prays to a Zebra, 2002, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, The Intern, 2005, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, Mowing the Cockfields, 2000, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. David Berman, Look At, 2001, ink on paper. Courtesy David Berman. 48. Jeffrey Brown 49. David Berman 50. David Berman 51. Raymond Pettibon 52. David Berman 53. Raymond Pettibon 54. Henry Darger 55-61. David Berman 62. Steve Powers 63. George Schneeman and Ron Padgett 64. George Schneeman and Alice Notley 65. George Schneeman and Ron Padgett 66. David Godbold 67-74. Nedko Solakov 75. Quenton Miller 13 (misplaced by Jesse). Quenton Miller 76. Peter Saul 77-81. Quenton Miller 82-85. Amy Jean Porter 86. Kurt Vonnegut 87. Art Spiegelman 88-91. Leonard Cohen 92-93. Leanne Shapton 94. Dan Perjovschi 95. CM Evans 96. Leanne Shapton 97. Jay Howell 98-99. David Shrigley 100. Royal Art Lodge 101-103. Jay Howell 104-105. David Shrigley 106. Royal Art Lodge 107. David Shrigley 108. Peter Saul 109. Royal Art Lodge 110. David Shrigley 111-112. Jay Howell 113. David Shrigley 114. Royal Art Lodge 115. Jay Howell 116. David Shrigley 117. Jay Howell 118. Andy Warhol 119. Francisco Goya 120. Georges Braque 121. Jean-Michel Basquiat 122. Marcel Duchamp 123. Jean-Michel Basquiat 124. Saul Steinberg 125. Rene Magritte 126. William Steig 127. R. Crumb 128. William Steig
About GEORGES BRAQUE: He was a French painter and sculptor, born in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, France, in May 1882. He trained to be a house painter, as his father and grandfather were, and studied art at night. In 1907, he met Pablo Picasso, and by 1908 the two were jointly experimenting with the geometries of objects. He painted prolifically until his death, in 1963. We knew he was a user of text, and we looked for something appropriate. We found this image in a biography of Braque, and we feel like it demonstrates the impulse for artists to comment lightly on images they’re unsure about. George Braque, I laugh marvelously with you. That is my unique good fortune. A Seven Color Lithograph from Letter Amorosa, © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS) / ADAGP, Paris.
About JEFFREY BROWN: Brown was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition to appearing in various anthologies, Brown has published nearly a dozen books of his work — usually narratives in comics form. This year, he will release Little Things, his first graphic memoir in several years. We knew his work, and asked Brown if he had anything that fit our category; he sent his notebook and we found this page. Jeffrey Brown, Mom is going to be pissed, sketchbook. Courtesy of Jeffrey Brown.
About LEONARD COHEN: Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934; his career as an artist began in 1956, with the publication of his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies. Cohen is the author of twelve books in all, and has made seventeen albums, of which the latest is Dear Heather. A few months ago, co-curator Jesse Nathan was looking for a book by Cohen for a gift for his dad. He found Cohen’s Book of Longing, which included poems and these drawings. We didn’t know Cohen was a draftsman but we were very happy to find these pieces, which he drew on a Wacom tablet. Leonard Cohen, Inner Sweetness, 2007, digital pigment print on Archival Arches watercolor paper. Courtesy of Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen, Still Looking, 2007, digital pigment print on Archival Arches watercolor paper. Courtesy of Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen, My Guitar, reproduction Courtesy of Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen, Sit Still, reproduction Courtesy of Leonard Cohen.
About R. CRUMB: Robert Crumb was born in 1943 in Philadelphia, PA. He lives and works now in Sauve, France. Best known for his works on paper, he is widely regarded as one of the most skillful portrait artists alive. Popular culture, the absurdity of social conventions, political disillusionment, defeatism, dehumanization, irony, racial and gender stereotypes, sexual fantasies and fetishes all work their way into Crumb’s drawings, which are uncensored personal accounts of his life and, subsequently, society at large. When we thought of Crumb, we looked for something from a notebook, that would demonstrate the artist’s impulse to draw first, caption later. This is a stab in that direction. R. Crumb, People make me nervous, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of R. Crumb.
About HENRY DARGER: A janitor in Chicago for most of his adult life, Darger produced vast volumes of drawings and writings, all discovered after his death in 1973 at age eighty-one. There are only three known photographs of Darger, and his biography remains largely a mystery. Since the 1970s, his work has been exhibited in museums around the country. Henry Darger, At Jennie Richee 2 of Story To Evans They Attempt To Get Away By Rolling Themselves In Floor Rugs, date unknown, carbon tracing, pencil, and watercolor on paper. Courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York.
About MARCEL DUCHAMP: Born in 1887, Marcel Duchamp made his name with his readymades and spoofs on the pretentiousness of art and artists. Associated with both Dada and Surrealism, he produced a relatively small amount of work. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, in 1968. Marcel Duchamp, LHOOQ, (There is a Fire Down Below), 1919. © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Succession Marcel Duchamp.
About CM EVANS: Evans is a cartoonist, illustrator, and writer whose work has appeared in many venues, including Unpleasant Event Schedule and Opium. He is hard at work finishing HOME, his fourth book of poetry, short stories, and illustrations. His work’s also appeared in Milk Magazine, Unpleasant Event Schedule and The Shore Magazine. He is cartooneditor- at-large for www.opiummagazine.com. CM Evans, Abe Lincoln in a Straw Hat, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of CM Evans. CM Evans, Home Plate, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of CM Evans. CM Evans, My Computer, 2008, black marker on paper. Courtesy of CM Evans. CM Evans, Steel Wool in Bulk, 2008, black marker on paper. Courtesy of CM Evans. About DAVID GODBOLD: Godbold, born in 1961, lives and works in Dublin, Ireland, and has exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States. In 2000, he began making small drawings accompanied by texts on transparent paper sheets mounted over found trash—shopping lists, love letters, childrens’ doodles, fliers. His recent publications include Forwards,Not Backwards and Our Comic Book. Jack Hanley, a gallery owner in San Francisco, suggested Godbold when we mentioned the show to him. David Godbold, A Simple Drawing, 2002, ink on tracing paper over found paper, Courtesy of Hales Gallery, London. Jack Hanley directed us toward Godbold’s work.
About FRANCISCO GOYA: Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes lived from 1746 to 1828, working for most of his life as a painter and printmaker. He began as a court painter, but in later drawings like “Los Disastres” and “Los Caprichos” his work grew to include darker visions. These works made Goya a bridge between old painterly masters and the artists that followed him, such as Picasso and Manet. He died at eighty-two, in Bordeaux. We found the work reproduced on the wall in a book we bought at the Berkeley flea market. Right after that, we saw an exhibit mounted by the Berkeley Art Museum of drawings by Enrique Chagoya and two of his great influences: Francisco Goya and Philip Guston. Both Goya and Guston — as well as Chagoya — like to draw and weave text into the artwork. Chagoya, by the way, we love, but his work wasn’t funny enough in general to have in this show. Francisco Goya, Se quieren mucho (They love each other very much), 1824–28, crayon on paper.
About PHILIP GUSTON: Philip Guston (1913-1980) was, according to his daughter, “driven, sustained, and consumed by art.” His style ranged from the social realism of his WPA murals through his abstract expressionist canvasses of the 1950s and 1960s (when he counted Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, and Kline among his friends) to his cartoonlike paintings of Klansmen, disembodied heads, and tangled piles of everyday objects. Critics and public alike savaged Guston for his return to figurative art, but today his late work is, according to The New Yorker, “ recognized for the singular power of his personal, darkly hilarious vision.” We hoped he had something applicable to this show, and he did. Philip Guston, I thought I would never write anything down again, ink on paper, Private Collection. Courtesy of McKee Gallery, New York. PAUL HORNSCHEMEIR: Born in Cincinnati in 1977, Paul Hornschemeier began self-publishing his experimental comics series Sequential in college. He has also published a graphic novel called Mother, Come Home. We knew Hornschemeir’s work and asked him if he had anything handy and applicable. He sent us this. Paul Hornschemeir, Dialectic on Preference, blue pencil and ink on bristol. Courtesy of Paul Hornschemeir.
About JAY HOWELL: Howell was born in Massachusetts, and now lives and works in San Francisco. He produces a zine called Punks Git Cut! and has a record label called Mt.St.Mtn. A friend of ours heard about what we were doing and let us borrow one of Howell’s many zines/collections of drawings. Many of the pieces we included are actually part of a narrative, but function well on their own. Jay Howell, Until a Week Ago..., ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, If You Were My Boyfriend, 2002, ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, 5 Baldy Beardos, 2002, ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, Rudy and John Paul Cruise Down, 2002, ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, Now I Spank You, 2002, ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, An Egypt Poem, ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, I Got Ten Best Friends, ink on paper. Courtesy of Jay Howell. Jay Howell, Mt. Fuji, ink and paint on vellum paper. Courtesy of Receiver Design, San Francisco. CHRIS JOHANSON: Chris Johanson’s work appears widely at galleries around the world, including the Jack Hanley Gallery, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, and the Baronian-Francey Gallery. His films have appeared at the New York Underground Film Festival and the Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema. He lives in San Francisco. The librarians at the SFMOMA contemporary art library took an interest in our project (probably because Jesse Nathan was practically living in their space while doing research for this project) and pointed us to Johanson. Chris Johanson, This workshop is highly regarded as an excellent workshop, 2002, acrylic on paper. Courtesy of Casey Spooner.
About MAIRA KALMAN: Kalman is a painter, designer, illustrator and writer of various books. She often does covers for the New Yorker, and her work has been shown all over the place. She created the sets for the Mark Morris Dance Group production of “Four Saints in Three Acts,” an opera by Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein. She now writes a monthly illustrated blog, The Principles of Uncertainty, for The New York Times. Kalman is represented by the Julie Saul Gallery in New York City. She was born in Tel Aviv and came to NYC at the age of 4 with her family. Her hard-tocategorize work was one of the first things we thought of when we thought of this show. She was kind enough to bring her work around the day we hung the show — she lives nearby — and to hand-write her captions on her paintings. (Usually the captions, though always handwritten, are added via computer.) Maira Kalman, Sentence fragment, gouache on paper. From The Elements of Style, Penguin Press, 2005. Courtesy the artist. Maira Kalman, Spontaneous me, sang Whitman, gouache on paper. From The Elements of Style, Penguin Press, 2005. Courtesy the artist. Maira Kalman, None of us is perfect, gouache on paper. From The Elements of Style, Penguin Press, 2005. Courtesy the artist. Maira Kalman, I look at her sink. And leave, gouache on paper. From The Principles of Uncertainty, Penguin Press, 2007. Courtesy the artist. Maira Kalman, Here is the man. His hat flew off his head. I hope he is not really dead, just enjoying a refreshing lie-down in the snow. But the caption says he is dead, gouache on paper. From The Principles of Uncertainty, Penguin Press, 2007. Courtesy the artist.
About KENNETH KOCH: During his life, Koch published stories, plays, and eighteen volumes of poetry, including A Possible World and Sun Out: Selected Poems 1952–1954. He was born in Cinncinatti and at the age of 18 he entered the service, stationed during WWII as a U.S. Army infantryman in the Philippines. After his service, he attended Harvard University, where he met future New York School cohort John Ashbery. He taught at Columbia for over forty years. Someone in the McSweeney’s office had Koch’s book of drawings, The Art of the Possible, and we contacted Koch’s widow Karen. She offered the original scrapbook in which her husband laid out the work; the original sketches are buried deep in the attic warrens of the New York Public Library. Kenneth Koch, Opera House Comics, ink on paper, from The Art of the Impossible. Rights Courtesy of Karen Koch. Kenneth Koch, In Five Hundred Years, ink on paper, from The Art of the Impossible. Rights courtesy of Karen Koch. Kenneth Koch, Annuals vs. Perrenials, ink on paper, from The Art of the Impossible. Rights courtesy of Karen Koch. Kenneth Koch, Stopping Off For a Pastry, ink on paper, from The Art of the Impossible. Rights courtesy of Karen Koch. Kenneth Koch, Bosom Comics, ink on paper, from The Art of the Impossible. Rights courtesy of Karen Koch. Kenneth Koch, The Art of the Impossible, original sketchbook. Rights courtesy of Karen Koch.
About DAVID MAMET: Mamet, born in 1947, is an author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, film director, and draftsman. Mamet’s work has landed him both Tony and Oscar nominations, as well as numerous other awards. His books include The Old Religion and Five Cities of Refuge, a commentary on the Torah with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. We first saw his art in a book put out by Trillium Press. David Mamet, Untitled drawing (Mustard is the Fool’s Condiment) from Tested on Orphans, 2006, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Mamet. David Mamet, Untitled drawing (Immanual Kant...But You Can) from Tested on Orphans, 2006, ink on paper. Rights courtesy of David Mamet. David Mamet, Untitled drawing (Woofy: Official Dog of the Cubists) from Tested on Orphans, 2006, ink on paper. Rights courtesy of David Mamet. David Mamet, Untitled drawing (Newest High-Concept Restaurant) from Tested on Orphans, 2006, ink on paper. Rights courtesy of David Mamet. David Mamet, Untitled drawing (Not Tested on Animals) from Tested on Orphans, 2006, ink on paper. Courtesy the curator.
About QUENTON MILLER: He was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1981. Since then, he has worked in a catering company’s kitchen, harassed diners for a telemarketer, co-founded a literature and music magazine called Litmus, filmed TV shows, and art-directed advertisements. More recently, he has had work published in the Walrus, the Age newspaper in Melbourne, and the Believer, and has self-published two books: Curses, Laws, Trademarks and From. Quenton sent us an unpublished book of his drawings and it was circulating the McSweeney’s office about the time we were thinking about this show. The book had 10-15 drawings, was called From and included no other information except for Quenton’s email address. We called him up and asked for more. For the opening of the show, he traveled to the U.S. for the first time, and did the original work on the wall (under the far Peter Saul) on the Tuesday before the show opened. He painted it using acrylic paint and ink, and he would like it to be known that it’s a work-in-progress, and he might change it the next time he sees it. Quenton Miller, Birds, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Quenton Miller, Flags, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Quenton Miller, Play, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Quenton Miller, Skier, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Quenton Miller, Howlin’ V, Yes I’ve heard of him, 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Quenton Miller, Argument, staged to keep seats..., 2007, ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist.
About TUCKER NICHOLS: Born in 1970, Tucker Nichols’s recent solo shows have appeared at ZieherSmith Gallery in New York, Lincart and Gallery 16 in San Francisco, and the Kunstpanorama in Lucerne. His drawings have been published in J&L Books, Zoetrope: All Story, Nieves Books, and the New York Times. Nichols’s most recent book, Postcards From Vermont, was published by the Expanding Color System last year. He is currently artist-in-residence at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. His work, and thinking about how his work connected to other stuff like his, prompted this show. Tucker Nichols, Almost Canadian, 2007, colored pencil and pencil on paper, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York Tucker Nichols, Have You Seen Alan Alda?, 2002, pen on paper, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York Tucker Nichols, Cheese Test, 2006, pencil on paper, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York Tucker Nichols, Holy Fuck, 2004, ink on paper, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York Tucker Nichols, Hey Ladies, 2003, gouache and pen on paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York. Tucker Nichols, Save My Pie, 2007, pencil on paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York. Tucker Nichols, Sorry About the Ice Bucket, 2003, pen on paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York. Tucker Nichols, Motor Skills Workshop, 2004, pencil and colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York. Tucker Nichols, Tired, 2006, pencil on paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York. Tucker Nichols, Your Candy Ass, 2006, pencil and colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York. Tucker Nichols, Welcome to the DMV, 2004, colored pencil and gouache. Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery, New York.
About DAN PERJOVSCHI: Born in Romania in 1961, he lives and works in Bucharest. He typically draws things directly on the wall, sometimes as performance, sometimes as gallery art, and sometimes as installation. In the last decade, Perjovschi has made his drawings spontaneously in museum spaces, allowing global and local affairs to inform the final result. For his first solo museum exhibition in the United States, the artist drew witty and incisive political images, in response to current events, on one wall of The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium. Two weeks before his official opening at MoMA in 2007, Perjovschi drew on the wall during public hours, allowing visitors to observe the creation of the work. Dan Perjovschi, Capitalism, 2007, ink on paper. Reproduction used courtesy of the artist.
About RAYMOND PETTIBON: Raymond Pettibon was educated at UCLA and, these days, lives and works in Hermosa Beach, California. His work has been shown at museums around the world, from the Contemporary Gallery of Fine Arts in Berlin to David Zwirner Gallery in New York. He was an early choice for this show, though we found that fewer of his works were funny-funny than we had remembered. So much of his work is so lyrical and profound. Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (Forget the Meaning. Just Enjoy), pen and ink on paper. Reproduction rights courtesy of Raymond Pettibon and Regen Projects. Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (Perhaps the fact), 1984, pen, ink and correction fluid on paper. Reproduction rights courtesy of Raymond Pettibon and Regen Projects. Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (We have only), 1986, pen and ink on paper. Reproduction rights courtesy of Raymond Pettibon and Regen Projects.
About AMY JEAN PORTER: Amy Jean Porter has had group exhibitions at the Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, the Finesilver Gallery in Houston, the G-Module in Paris and Debs and Co. in New York City. She’s published drawings in Jubilat, McSweeney’s, Cabinet and Columbia. She works at the Yale University Art Museum. She got her BA in humanities at Yale and then studied “Textual and Visual Studies” at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. We contacted the Yale Art Museum because they were having an exhibit of “Master Drawings,” a show collecting some of the best drawings of the last 500 years. We got an email back from Amy Jean saying “You’ve found me at my day job — can I send you some of mine work that might fit in with this concept?” Amy Jean Porter, Jaguar, from the series North American Mammals Speak the Truth and Often Flatter Your Unnecessarily, 2003, gouache and ink on paper. Courtesy of Amy Jean Porter. Amy Jean Porter, Douglas’s Squirrel, from the series North American Mammals Speak the Truth and Often Flatter Your Unnecessarily, 2003, gouache and ink on paper. Courtesy of Amy Jean Porter. Amy Jean Porter, Pygmy Shrew, from the series North American Mammals Speak the Truth and Often Flatter Your Unnecessarily, 2003, gouache and ink on paper. Courtesy of Collection of Louisa Kamps. Amy Jean Porter, North American Mammals Speak the Truth and Often Flatter Your Unnecessarily, from the series North American Mammals Speak the Truth and Often Flatter Your Unnecessarily, 2003, gouache and ink on paper. Courtesy of Collection of Amy Jean Porter.
About STEVE POWERS: Powers was born and raised in Philadelphia. After stints as publisher of On the Go Magazine, author of the book The Art Of Getting Over, and full-time graffiti writer, Powers opened his studio practice in January of 1998. Since then he has shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Deitch Projects, and the Forty- Ninth Venice Biennale, created a permanent installation for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Adolescent Care Wing, and painted the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island. A 2008 Fulbright Fellow, he will be painting stories on walls in Dublin and Belfast in the coming months. Steve Powers, With this Ring I Thee Wed, 2008, original drawing on the wall, ink and espresso. Steve Powers, Our Puzzle Paradise, 2006, enamel and spraypaint on powdercoated steel. Courtesy of Steve Powers.
About ROYAL ART LODGE: The Royal Art Lodge collective was formed in March 1996, by Michael Dumontier, Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Drue Langlois, Jonathan Pylypchuk, and Adrian Williams. All were students of the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada, and would meet once a week to make collaborative drawings. By 2003, only Michael, Marcel, and Neil remained, and their focus turned to small-scale collaborative painting. The Royal Art Lodge’s retrospective exhibition “Ask the Dust” toured widely in 2003; more recently, its members have had solo exhibitions in London, Dublin, Venice, Padua, Brussels, Winnipeg, and Madrid. The Royal Art Lodge, Poster Making, 2006, mixed media on panel. Courtesy of Royal Art Lodge. The Royal Art Lodge, With a snake up his trunk and two frogs sucking on his tusks, 2005, mixed media on panel. Courtesy of Collection of Martin Maguss and Mari Iki. The Royal Art Lodge, Pay your way, 2005, mixed media on panel. Courtesy of Collection of Martin Maguss and Mari Iki. The Royal Art Lodge, He was tall and his favorite thing was everything, 2004-2006, mixed media on panel. Courtesy of Private collection, Belgium.
About PETER SAUL: Saul was born in 1934 in San Francisco, California. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States and in Europe, and appears in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Centre Pompidou, among many others. His images, taken from comic books, cartoons and the media, had a pervasive visual force in post-war Europe and America. Over the years, Saul has embraced every kind of figurative and narrative painting; still-life, portraiture, epic wars and history, etc.—injecting these tried and true genres with his own offbeat sensibility. In the 1960’s and 70’s his paintings dealt with political issues such as the Vietnam War, the Black Panthers and the suburban ennui, most recently his paintings have critiqued the Bush administration, the role of the minority in the US, and globalization in the workplace. In his own words: “Politics, Propaganda and Pornography are 3 other things my pictures need if I’m going to have any hope of connecting with a vibrant, healthy art world that craves thrills and chills.” He lives in upstate New York (Germantown). Peter Saul, Hitler’s Brain is Alive, 2006, mixed media on paper. Courtesy of David Nolan Gallery, New York. Peter Saul, Castro Wipes Ass, 1995, india ink, colored pencil and acrylic on paper. Courtesy of David Nolan Gallery, NYC
About GEORGE SCHNEEMAN: Schneeman, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, has shown his solo work at numerous venues, including the Fischbach Gallery, the Holly Solomon Gallery, and the Denver Art Museum. In 2004, his collaborative work was exhibited at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City, and published in a book called Painter Among Poets. We included a number of his collaborations between poets such as Alice Notley and Ron Padgett.
About ALICE NOTLEY: Notley, born in 1945, is an American poet. She received a B.A from Barnard College in 1967 and an M.F.A. from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1969. She married the poet Ted Berrigan in 1972, with whom she was active in the Chicago poetry scene and with whom she had two sons. In the early 70s she became rooted in New York’s Lower East Side, where she was an important force from 1976 through 1992. After Berrigan died in 1983, Notley raised their two sons in New York’s East Village by herself for several years while continuing to develop her poetry. In 1992 she moved to Paris with her second husband, the British poet Douglas Oliver (1937-2000). She lives in Paris currently, making several trips to the United States each year to give readings and teach writing classes. George Schneeman and Alice Notley, Do the Stars, 1983, ink on cardstock. Courtesy of George Schneeman and Alice Notley.
About RON PADGETT: Ron Padgett’s books include Great Balls of Fire, The Adventures of Mr. & Mrs. Jim & Ron (with Jim Dine), Oklahoma Tough, and others. Padgett was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1964 and studied creative writing at Wagner College with Howard Nemerov and Kenneth Koch. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and studied 20th-century French literature in Paris during 1965 and 1966. He was an associate of Teachers & Writers Collaborative for many years and their director of publications. His works on education and writing include The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms (editor), The Teachers & Writers Guide to Walt Whitman (editor), Educating the Imagination (co-editor), and many others. He was also editor of Teachers & Writers Magazine from 1980 to 2000. George Schneeman and Ron Padgett, Shit on You, mid-1970s, ink on illustration board. Courtesy of George Schneeman and Ron Padgett. George Schneeman and Ron Padgett, Hippo and the Happy Home, early 1970s, ink on illustration board. Courtesy of George Schneeman and Ron Padgett.
About OLGA SCHOLTEN: Olga Scholten, born in the Netherlands in 1972, started her own studio in 1999. 1972, Edam, The Netherlands. Graduated from and taught graphic design at The Royal Art Academy. Was employed at Thonik, Anton Beeke Studio, and Atelier René Knip. One of her ongoing projects is her website (www.doorolga.com), where she has her thin drawings ("the thinner, the better"!) come to life. She published a book containing drawings and text, designed a cover for The 1000 Journal Project, and participated in an exhibition at The Centraal Museum in Utrecht with a performance of live drawings. She lives in Amsterdam. She came to New York for this show and did the original drawing on the wall on Tuesday, April 2. Olga Scholten, Untitled (This is going to be), 2004, ink on paper. Courtesy of Olga Scholten. Olga Scholten Untitled, 2008, original drawing on the wall with very thin pen. Courtesy of Olga Scholten.
About LEANNE SHAPTON: In 2003, Leanne published her first book of drawings, titled Toronto, and in 2006 Farrar Straus & Giroux published Was She Pretty?, a book of stories and drawings around the theme of sexual jealousy. Also in 2006 Leanne designed the titles and credits for The Squid And The Whale, the film directed by Noah Baumbach; she has also designed titles for his film, Margot at the Wedding. Other film work includes designing DVD covers for The Criterion Collection. She is presently at work on a new illustrated novel for Farrar, Straus & Giroux and a second collection of drawings. Leanne contributes a regular travel column to Elle magazine, consisting of writing, photography and illustration. When not working for publication, she makes drawings, paintings, wooden books, and creates designs for textiles. She brought by the work in this show (she lives close) and did the original series of portraits on the high door near the stairs. She also did the doorknob notices meant for the maid. Leanne Shapton, Untitled, gouache on paper, 2006, courtesy the artist. Leanne Shapton, Nausea, ink on paper, 2007, courtesy the artist.
About DAVID SHRIGLEY: One of the first people who came to mind when this show came to mind, Shrigley is Scottish and was born in 1968. Nothing else is known about him. David Shrigley, Can You Fix This/NO, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, Here is your portrait, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, I Drew This..., ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, I will find a lump of rock, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Saves Lives, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, Upon my return from exile, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, Your Fromer Lover, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley. David Shrigley, Your mother had a bad childhood, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of David Shrigley.
About SHEL SILVERSTEIN: Shel Silverstein wrote The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and many other books of prose and poetry. He also wrote songs, penned cartoons, and had a good time. Sometimes he called himself Uncle Shelby, especially when talking to children. He died in Key West, Florida, in May 1999. Co-curator Jesse Nathan had begun working on a piece about Shel Silverstein’s early career for the Poetry Foundation. He was re-reading some of his old work when came across drawings that worked. Shel Silverstein, Longest Nose, ink on paper, 1974. From Where the Sidewalk Ends, published by Harper Collins. Shel Silverstein, Unofficial title: “That bull you see there is a coward, senor...” Untitled, from the book Playboy’s Silverstein Around The World, copyright 2007 by Evil Eye LLC and Playboy Enterprises International Inc., published by Simon & Schuster. Originally published in Playboy Magazine as part of the April, 1959 article, Silverstein Fights A Bull.
About NEDKO SOLAKOV: Solakov was born in Briag, Bulgaria. His drawings and installations—including work planted within the Israel Museum’s history galleries and on the wings of actively used commercial airplanes—have been shown in Japan, Austria, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, and many other places. We found Solakov in an issue of Frieze, wherein there was an article about slapstick. It should be noted that Solakov did the nine pieces represented specifically for this show. We thank him for that. Nedko Solakov, Untitled, 2008, sepia, black and white ink, and wash on paper, a series of nine drawings. Courtesy of the artist.
About ART SPIEGELMAN: Spiegelman is the author of many books, including Maus and The Wild Party and In the Shadow of No Towers. Along with his wife Francoise Mouly, he was the founder of RAW magazine, and is generally considered one of the leading practitioners and historians of the comics medium. His studio is very close to apexart, so we emailed him to see if he had anything that would fit into the show; he said sure, and we went to pick it up. Art Spiegelman, Tomb of the Unknown Celebrity, ink on notebook paper, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.
About WILLIAM STEIG: Steig was twenty-two when his first drawings were published in the New Yorker. “They were,” writes Lillian Ross, “what are ordinarily called cartoons but what the people around the New Yorker, for some reason or another, call comic art. From the beginning, Steig’s drawings, as a matter of fact, were comic and were art.” In addition to his drawings, Steig is known for his sculptures and children’s books. He was ninety-five when he died. [Note: we broke one of our rules — that the text be hand-drawn — only twice, for Steig and Silverstein. William Steig, The snowman realizes who he is, date unknown, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of Jeanne Steig. William Steig, Moon Resting in a Tree, date unknown, ink on paper. Rights Courtesy of Jeanne Steig.
About SAUL STEINBERG: Steinberg, a Romanian escapee of wartime Italy, arrived in the United States in 1942; his entry was sponsored by the New Yorker after the magazine received some of his drawings. He drew eighty-nine covers for the magazine, and his cartoons, features, and illustrations were a defining presence there. Steinberg died in 1999. He was an early choice for the show. It was just a matter of finding which piece to represent him. Because the artists in this show were/are often apart from whatever art establishment existed (or remains), we chose this drawing. Saul Steinberg, The National Academy of the Avant Garde, © 2008 The Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
About KURT VONNEGUT: Kurt Vonnegut, born in 1922, in Indiana, is best known as a prolific and witty novelist. His biting satire and genrebending experiments with prose—in books including Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions—changed the face of literature. Until the end of his life, he was a relentless advocate of human decency. Vonnegut died in 2007, at the age of eighty-four. This print was sent to the curator a few years ago; he often sent lithos to those who wrote him admiring letters. Kurt Vonnegut, Trout’s Tomb, 2004, silkscreen on paper (printed by Joe Petro III). Courtesy the curator.
There were three main people who worked on the show on our end, Jesse Nathan, Jordan Bass, and myself, and we all took a shot at writing essays about the work we’d found and included in this show. The first drafts of these essays were a little formal and maybe even pretentious. We re-wrote them and they still didn’t seem right. So finally we settled on the text below, all of it mercifully brief and plain.
This show, titled Lots of Things Like This, came about when apexart asked for an idea for a show. The first thought that occurred to us was an exhibit that would highlight work that included these three elements:
1. An image 2. Some words (usually referring to the image) 3. A sense of humor
The show never got much more complicated than that. We started with the artists we knew we had to include: Raymond Pettibon, Tucker Nichols, Maira Kalman and David Shrigley. All four of them had found a place in the fine art world, even though in many cases their work was both narrative and funny, a combination that’s historically been rare in galleries and museums. For the most part, artists who use text in their work don’t write punchlines – the text is usually abstract or oblique, open to interpretation. But the rise of comics-based art, and of Pettibon in particular, had opened the doors to new hybrids of words and images, thank god.
So we started looking for work by our starting four artists, and many others, that satisfied the criteria. We figured we would bring in some artists who generally go by the label cartoonists (because, generally speaking, image + text + humor = cartoons), and we did, but we also found some great examples of the form from long-dead painters (Goya, Magritte), more recently dead genre-straddlers (Steinberg, Warhol), and a wonderfully diverse group of artists from all kinds of disciplines: writers, poets, musicians and playwrights. Actually just one playwright, David Mamet. But he's one of the best.
In some cases, this sort of work is central to what an artist does. Solakov and Perjovschi, for example, are well known for their brilliant and witty combinations of text and image. In other cases, as with Silverstein, this kind of captioned art is at the outer edge of the artist’s oeuvre. But we can say that just about every artist that we investigated, or had a hunch about, did indeed have work like this tucked away somewhere. Long after we had filled the show, we were finding fascinating examples of the form, and of course there are a number of obvious omissions in this show, from Lichtenstein to Picasso.
In any case, being loathe to draw conclusions about the artists’ motivations or methods, because, again, so many of these people are dead, we’re instead going to list some questions that occurred to us and might occur to you and might help the show blow your mind completely:
Why is it that so many of these artists aren’t so great at spelling? And why is it that when they screw up one of their words, instead of starting over, they just cross the word out and write it again? Many people would choose to start over.
Why is it important to many of the artists that the drawings appear casual, even rushed? Is the loose draftsmanship part of its appeal, in that it seems more intimate and disarming? Is absurdity more appealing when it comes across as humble?
What is the line between a doodle, a cartoon, a gag, a work of fine art, and will there ever be a time when someone doesn’t insist on writing a similar kind of silly and rhetorical sentence in an art catalog?
In some cases does it seem that the artist is defacing his or her own work by adding the text? That’s partly why we included the Duchamp / Mona Lisa experiment and the Goya – in both cases the words are a lighthearted comment on a finished or abandoned image. Sorry, that’s not really a question. Moving on...
Does this excerpt from an essay by Michael Bracewell, writing about David Shrigley, help us understand what some of these artists are up to? Here’s the relevant part: “Shrigley’s unlocked studio, situated near a struggling job club, was often raided by vandals who amused themselves by making additions to his drawings. Acknowledging the comedy within the discrepancy between the miscreants’ anti-art attitude and the claims of fine art to instruct or enlighten, [Shrigley] began to develop a graphic style in which the banal or the absurd could be used...”
Couldn't it be said that these artists are doing lots of not-encouraged-in-art-school things at once, given they’re making work that’s narrative, often informal, un-self-serious and usually featuring punchlines? And given its crossing of these many boundaries, doesn’t it make sense that its practitioners would come from so many other disciplines?
Does the subject matter – in many cases private and withdrawn – fit the form of these drawings? That is, is there something shy and retiring about this work, as if you’re looking at something very private, something not meant for public viewing?
Is it instructive that a good percentage of the art we chose to put in the show was hard to find? More often than not, we would find something in a book or online that we wanted to include, and when we got in touch with the artist, his or her gallery or estate, they would have no idea where the original was. No one would know. It was refreshing, in a way, and seemed appropriate for the form. Again, it doesn’t take itself so seriously.
But it does bring pleasure. This was really the guiding motivation behind the researching and hanging of this show: to put an enjoyable exhibit together, to cover the walls with strange and funny things. In that pursuit, we were lucky to assemble a fascinating group of artists, and we hope you like it.
P.S. The ostensible curator, Dave Eggers, would like to emphasize just how hard Jesse Nathan, a very young man who stepped up to help out, worked on this show. A good deal of the most interesting “finds” in the show came via his hard work, ingenuity and creative digging. Jordan Bass at McSweeney’s was a tremendous help, and of course Kerri Schlottman and everyone at apexart were exceptionally professional, good-natured, quick and efficient, and helpful in every way.
Dave Eggers ©2008
Dave Eggers is an award-winning author and founder of McSweeney's, an independent book-publishing house in San Francisco. In addition to writing and publishing books, he is a regular contributor about art and music for magazines and has designed most of the books and quarterlies published by McSweeney's, which have been featured in the National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and in the California Design Biennial. He also founded and opened 826 National, an innovative tutoring, writing, and publishing nonprofit based in seven cities across the country.
Lots Of Things Like This
Kurator: Dave Eggers
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Cohen, David Berman, Joe Brainard, Jeffrey Brown, Robert Crumb, Henry Darger, CM Evans, Shepard Fairey, David Godbold, Alasdair Gray, Philip Guston, Jay Howell, Chris Johanson, Maira Kalman, Kenneth Koch, David Mamet, Quenton Miller, Tucker Nichols, Alice Notley, Ron Padgett, Raymond Pettibon, Amy Jean Porter, Stephen Powers, Royal Art Lodge, Peter Saul, George Schneeman, David Shrigley, Shel Silverstein, Nedko Solakov, Ralph Steadman, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Kurt Vonnegut ...