"Not Just For Laughs: The Art of Subversion"
November 21 1981 - January 21 1982
"The humor that provides us with this palliative, with laughter that illuminates ourselves and our society, is used by artists as a way of educating, as a means of giving pleasure, and as a method of moral and political subversion. While the work in this show might not overthrow governments or unseat despots, it nonetheless can undermine authority, challenge dogma, upset convention, and unmask hypocrisy. This work can query cherished values, force us to acknowledge prejudices, and rethink our own and others' habits and assumptions." -Not Just For Laughs catalogue. “[This exhibition] consists of extremely funny works in various media that use paradox, exaggeration, outrage, incongruity, surprise, subversion, and/or false logic as basic formal means. The laughter provoked by these works is used to attack existing cultural stereotypes. The work is generally unfashionable and unpretentious, does not represent a particular school of thought or a specific art movement, and is about everything BUT art issues. The basic element in the work featured in Not Just for Laughs is humor. Many of the artists in the exhibition are iconoclasts in both their work and their lives. The artists seem uninterested in the status quo and their work is frequently, according to Tucker, ‘sarcastic, ludicrous, outrageous, biting, improbable, silly, critical, nasty, and occasionally tasteless; it is also very funny.’ …In addition to focusing on the art establishment, artists in the show choose sex, religion, death, racism, and the absurdity of familiar and/or mundane activities as subject for their work, The work is presented in a wide range of media, including painting and drawing, photography, sculpture, videotape, and performance. The response to visual humor can be as unexpected, irrational and emotionally complex as is our response to non-objective work. Unlike entertainment, which tries to remove us, however briefly, from the difficulties and cares of the real world, the art in this exhibition never lets us escape it for a minute, It calls our attention to the paradoxes, hypocrisies, and pretensions of life by making fun of them.” -From The New Museum Press Release, November 5, 1981
New Museum curator
Courtesy the Artist and New Museum