As a scholar of celebrated French clown Philippe Gaulier claimed, “Once you can handle the insults, something inside you cracks and you can get started.” If the ideal variety of humor is crafted from inward rage, “Punchline” provides. The group exhibition of eleven artists attributes performs including Divya Gadangi’s Please Sustain Your First Indian Magnificence, 2014—a video recreation centered on a disagreement Gadangi had with her mom around the artist’s altering hair color—and a video of a overall performance by Kalup Linzy that yearns for a freer future, even liberty from cringe.
The fantasy that ridiculing our enemies can deliver them down can be subsistence for surviving darkish moments. A collection of posters by the Guerrilla Girls begs the dilemma: Does community humiliation work at a quick plenty of pace? Their incisive criticisms from decades in the past continue to be just as unresolved as extra latest types. Just take 3 Methods to Create a Museum Wall Label when the Artist Is a Sexual Predator, 2018, an indictment of painter Chuck Close that finds launch through insulting establishments and curators who, gagged by rich collectors, are nonetheless also cowardly to be outspoken.
Ben Sloat’s miniatures from the 2008–22 series “I’m Not Like Other Guys”—mockeries of Jeff Koons’s porcelain sculpture Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988—also adhere it to the gentleman. Some of these is effective, which render the King of Pop as 1980s cartoon people this kind of as Skeletor or Lion-O, remark on the unlucky fungibility of Jackson’s graphic but also restore a semblance of dignity to the icon by portraying him at the height of his success—and not as kitschy deracinated loon, à la Koons—following the release of his 1982 Thriller album.
Reniel Del Rosario’s installation Exist Through the Present Shop (Jane Lombard Gallery Present Store), 2022, made specifically for the exhibition (and whose title parodies the 2010 documentary on graffiti artist Banksy) presents laughs on the low-cost, advertising separately packaged ceramic cigarettes labeled “Artist’s Pressure Relief” and sugar cubes constituting a Do it yourself package for Kara Walker’s giant sugar sculpture A Subtlety, 2014. Close by, ceramics and drawings by Madeline Donahue confront the maternal body as one particular that is conveniently stretched—or even hijacked—by new youngsters and a mother’s adore for them.
In its greatest times, “Punchline”—curated by Yng-Ru Chen, founder of the Brookline, Massachusetts–based gallery Praise Shadows—shows how absurdity can turn into an engine and force position for feminist, antiracist, and queer struggle. Possibly, as the work here looks to propose, as we trudge via close periods, nothing can be as well punishing if it is embraced as a joke.