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Art + Design in Miami: Comic Aggression

Disgruntled artists mingle the cute with the profane

by CH Editors in Culture on 10 December 2012

Artists have plenty of cause for complaint: politics, sexuality, war, the commercialization of the art market. Too witty for sincere criticism, the discontents at Art Basel 2012 and surrounding Miami fairs decided to childishly air their respective gripes with obscene humor. The result isn't the inflammatory art of old, but a comic voice that mocks the nature of societal outrage. See below for highlights of the artistic absurdities.

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Standing amongst the throngs of fair-goers in Fredric Snitzer Gallery's booth at Art Basel, Jon Pylypchuck's "I Won't Give Up on You" presented an army of picketing cigarette butts with a bone to pick. The comic figurines sported signs that read "My Husband Is a Pussy" and "Y'alls Can Suck My Balls," setting a stark contrast to the subdued viewership of gallery owners and buyers.

Pairing a gestural joke with a linguistic one, Brent Birnbaum's clever "I (h)ate you" is a comical, crude use of flashing neon. The piece showed at Scope as part of Brass Tacks and was one of many audience-facing pieces to exploit sexuality.

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"Here Lie The Last Exemplar of the Extinct Species of Homo Stupidus Corruptus" is the title of Federico Solmi's condemnatory piece at Postmasters Gallery in the Seven group show. Known for his tongue-in-cheek criticism, Solmi's mixed media work imitates an arcade game to mock communism, the Chinese government and the rest of the human race.

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Scott Hove's series "Cakeland" deftly mixed pastries with weaponry and monsters in bright pastels and floral finishing. Showing at Spoke Art Gallery at Scope, the brutally beautiful pieces are constructed from carvable polyurethane sculpting foam that is finished with thick acrylic gel pumped from traditional pastry nozzles.

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William Powhida's painting "Possible Mean(ing)s" mimics the look of a schoolboy's homework assignment, translating popular art world sayings into plain English. Banalities like "I really liked your piece" become "You're in a horrible group show," and very few artists escape Powhida's harsh wit. "Possible Mean(ing)s" showed at Postmasters Gallery in the Seven group show.

Harland Miller plays off the friendly, iconic Penguin book cover, turning classic titles into pessimistic tomes. "Don't Let the Bastards Cheer You Up" and "You Are No Longer Part Of My Life" were two of the pieces shown by Galerie Alex Daniels at Pulse this year.

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This rainbow-colored, rock candy pistol by artist Darren Lago is actually made from tinted resin and glass. Evoking notions like "sweet revenge" and commenting on the connection between childhood and societal violence, "Candy Colt, Tutti Frutti" was exhibited by Davidson Contemporary at Pulse.

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Jillian Kogan's "Happiness is Expensive" mixes a cartoonish neon font with a crestfallen message for added effect. Kogan's sentiment was carried by artists across the fairs, and her piece showed for David Shelton Gallery at Miami Project.

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Reminiscent of a Warhol screenprint series, Simon Thompson's "Fuck Off Art Cunts Suite" is composed of multiple color prints of a Secret Service firing target. A crudely drawn smiley face and Thompson's opaque messaging define the anti-establishment vibe of the piece, which showed with Robert Fontaine Gallery at Scope.

With contributions from Karen Day, Evan Orensten, James Thorne and Ruediger Glatz

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