Art History Sitcom: Jayson Musson serves up satire and nostalgia at Philadelphia exhibit – Art Newspaper | Candle Made Easy

Philadelphia-based artist Jayson Musson’s exhibition His art history at Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum combines the nostalgic familiarity of sitcoms with a crash course in art history—but through the artist’s satirical exploration of the pillars of the canon.

In the show’s eponymous three-channel video installation, noisy puppet protagonist Ollie sits down with Musson’s alter-ego Jay to argue about whether art matters. The ping-pong ball-eyed doll, as well as the sets, props and costumes were all made in the museum’s workshop. Part of the exhibit is the film set, in which the animatronic version of Ollie sits on the couch surrounded by the reproductions of historical artwork from the video.

“As Duchamp said [the] “The viewer completes the artwork, so shake hands with yourself to make sense of this assortment of junk,” Ollie rants. He is shown next to a dripping clock carpet taken from Dalí’s surrealist painting The Persistence of Memory (1931); a foam Pieta chair in the manner of Michelangelo’s late 15th-century marble masterpiece; a miniaturized, 3D printed version of Anish Kapoor’s public sculpture cloud gate (2004); and a wooden door painted in the spirit of Frank Stella’s enamel painting The Marriage of Reason and Misery II (1959) among other art historical allusions.

“Ollie” (left) played by Cedwan Hooks with Jimmica Collins and “Jay” (right) played by Jayson Musson. Jayson Musson, still from Episode 2: Caveman Days (2022). Jayson Musson, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, His art history (2022). Video still courtesy of the artist.

The film, which Musson shot to the beat of classic sitcoms with laugh tracks and one-liners, also includes “cameos” of artists such as Picasso in his signature white underwear and a larger-than-life foam replica of the Venus de Willendorf.

Musson telling The art newspaper that his childhood entertainment was a mix of action cartoons and late night shows The Arsenio Hall Show and Saturday night liveinserts his inspirations into the dynamic between the two talking heads.

“This is art: beautification aided by aesthetics,” Jay explains in the video while his eyeballs go demonic black. Ollie’s dismissal follows after a cut to a fish tank with a crucifix inside, a tribute to Andres Serranos Fuck off Christ (1987). “Why should I care about art? It has nothing to do with my everyday life,” says the doll.

Musson positions himself somewhere between the film’s contrasting voices, with an admitted fondness for Ollie “simply because he’d be more fun to chill with,” he says. The artist agrees with Jay’s celebration of the “value of knowing history” even though “he is disconnected from the everyday world and derives his personal worth from the objects he owns”. The puppet, on the other hand, according to its creator, is “down to earth”, “but lacks a moral compass or ‘foresight’ and is a victim of the fleeting tide of cultural currents”.

“Ollie”, played by Cedwan Hooks with Jimmica Collins, paints a still life. Jayson Musson, freeze frame off Episode 3: Dip your toes (2022). Jayson Musson, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, His art history (2022). Video still courtesy of the artist.

A clash of intellectuals has long been a pillar of Ottoman-era comedy by puppet duo Hacivat and Karagöz to Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Mistakes and Hollywood’s Laurel and Hardy. For Musson, however, the back and forth between his characters raises questions about the signifiers of value in art.

“Art, like capitalism, has a way of consuming their opposing forces or divergent practices,” says the artist. “Within this consumption, the ‘outside’ becomes ‘in’, so it’s not necessarily mocking art or its social dynamics, I’m really playing around and trying to figure out how something can become art.”

A satirical appraisal of the canon has long been a motif in Musson’s work. The artist broke through with his YouTube video series over a decade ago ART THOUGHTSin which he took on the role of mocking Coogi sweater-puller Hennessy Youngman and delivered his performances spiral bridge, Damien Hirst or Structuralism. “A deconstruction of critical theory, because otherwise what would a graduate student do,” says Musson of this series, which he created while attending the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Musson believes that, much like YouTube did then, the sitcom genre has some “empty hierarchical weight within the art world’s labyrinth of meaning,” which gives it space to articulate its views on art history and invites audiences to reflect on its protagonists’ debates .

  • Jayson Musson: His Art History, through November 13 at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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