Funny Business: Humor in Art from the Permanent Collection

March 14 – June 13, 2004

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Using humor, wit, irony, and puns in various ways the works of art in Funny Business express notions about the absurdity of the art world, politics, economics, and human nature. For instance:
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John Baldessari’s limited edition print, I will not make any more boring art, 1971, is composed of said-phrase handwritten many times, as if the artist is making a resolution about the future of his art. Ironically, the repetition of the black, scribbled writing on white paper would be described by many people as a being boring art, because of its lacks of visual stimulation, and thus would seem to contradict the artist’s declaration. However, Baldessari suggests instead that it is the intellectual rigor, the concept, the intention, and the process behind a work of art that makes it not boring.
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Deborah Brown’s Untitled (Squirrel Girl), 1994, is part of a series of small sculptures in which she combines toy animal parts with doll parts. The result of Brown’s Dr. Frankenstein cartoon surrealism is a charming woman’s dainty head jerry-rigged to the body of a wild squirrel’s body.
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Evan Holloway’s, Upsidedown White Rauschenberg, 1999, references an early combine work by artist Robert Rauschenberg. Holloway copies the work, turns it upside-down, and strips it of its original scruffiness by making it all white. The artist engages in an exchange of ideas with recent art history, acknowledging the influence, but also taking the liberty of creating something new, thereby presenting the past in his own peculiar vocabulary.
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Jason McKechnie’s, Untitled (Wagina), 1993, is a painting made by pouring gel-medium and acrylic paints into an amorphous mass. He then blends in toy googlie eyes and decorative sparkles. In some areas of the work, this apparently formless paint looks like women’s apparel that surrounds a stretched canvas, suggesting a kind of painting in drag.
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Elizabeth Pulsinelli’s sculpture of altered beanbag chairs, Stacked, c.1990, sit in the middle of the floor. They still function like the comfortable furniture that they are but they are also clearly representing gigantic women’s breasts. The work is a double-sided commentary that points to how women are often depicted only as sex objects in our society, and yet by being so explicit with their exposure reminds us of the taboo of completely revealing our bodies in public.
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The works in the exhibition included gifts from Kati Breckenridge, Ph.D., Greg and Kristin Escalante, Kourosh Larizadeh, Dr. John Menkes, Mark and Hilarie Moore, Eileen and Peter Norton, Jane and Patty Slowsky, Stuart and Judy Spence, Betty and Glenn Turnbull.
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