Fall 2010,Degree Critical

Wednesday 11/17/2010

David Shrigley. untitled, ink on paper (2010); 14 5/8 x10 3/8 inches. Courtesy Anton Kern, New York.

Simple, Ironic, Cute Rebellion

byDan Slyfield (Class of 2011)

The strength of David Shrigley’s art—his small ink drawings that narrate with handwritten captions the illustrations happening within them—could almost be mistaken for college dorm room décor: ironic, cutely rebellious, and simplistic.

It is a struggle to define the kind of mouth present in these drawings, difficult to discern their eyes and body posture. Does the phrase “PLEASE ALLOW ME TO SHOW YOU MY FOOT” in fat, harmless lettering, below a cartoonish set of bare legs (all in black and white, of course, since this is ink on paper and nothing else) wear a leather jacket? Spit? Or is it a woman with calloused fingers, aged from long hours of work in the dirt of the everyday?

The standard size of each drawing, only a few inches larger than a piece of letter stationary, unifies them; and, however different the content of each image, there is a second unity: the enigmatic insolence quivering like a lip in a boxing ring resides like a virus that fair immunity cannot displace.

An animated film (Letter) in a side gallery is of a character with the drawings. A hand drawn with the digital look of ink scratches out tediously a doctor’s note for someone named William. It embodied the entire presentation (the drawings, the film, the ceramic boots and bronze fingertips growing out of the wall). The hand stiffly and warily reaches with a pencil towards the piece of paper ahead of it as though it were nearing something with teeth. A few words are scribbled, with the audio of pencil writing at a high volume, and it stops. It stops and starts—this is the key. For in the severe meaninglessness of a sick note being written for and by individuals we as the audience are not meant to really know, the hand starts and stops. Even in the looming humor of a criminal there is great moral passion for the correctness of things. With the nervousness of a hand stretching out a moment of boredom, the experience of a grip surfaces. It still is elusive, what gait this frankness shuffles about, but I would imagine it would be with the long strides of some young, hurried priest.