Ballroom Marfa Art Fund
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Visual Art

Deep Comedy

23 Mar 200730 Jul 2007


Marfa, Texas


Fischli and Weiss  |  Isa Genzken  |  Jef Geys  |  Rodney Graham  |  Christian Jankowski |  Japanther  |  Sam Prekop | Julia Scher  |  Roman Signer | Michael Smith |  William Wegman  |  John Wesley  | Joshua White  |  Elin Wikström 


Deep Comedy was an exhibition of work by artists whose conceptual practices are underpinned by humor. Brought together by artist Dan Graham and independent curator Sylvia Chivaratanond, the works in Deep Comedy transformed elements of the commonplace into playgrounds for amusement through a wide range of media including sculpture, video, installation, photography, and performance. Through work by international artists including Fischli and Weiss (Switzerland), Isa Genzken (Germany), Jef Geys (Belgium), Rodney Graham (Canada), Christian Jankowski (Germany), Japanther (USA), Julia Scher (USA), Roman Signer (Switzerland), Michael Smith (USA), William Wegman (USA), John Wesley (USA), Joshua White (USA), and Elin Wikström (Sweden), traditional modes of viewing are subverted via surprising forms of delivery and display.

Deep Comedy embraced the oxymoronic nature of the funny — where banality, irreverence, and trauma occasion the deepest bestial laughs. In the works presented, easy allies are made of critical thought and humor, intellectualism, and play. For these artists, critique of current socio-political and artistic institutions, though serious, take the form of playful, absurd and sarcastic gestures. They undermine the earnestness and solemnity of authoritarian projects and insidious systems of social organization.

Core themes of the co-curator Dan Graham’s own art practice are recognizable in Deep Comedy. Architecture as a mechanism of power to govern and control physical and psychological space has been an ongoing interest to Graham since the ‘60s, as has his artistic engagement and writings on the public and private functions of television and video as transmitters (and receivers) of information. The artist’s intention to create situations where viewers become conscious of their own perception filters through in Deep Comedy where artists impugn the conventions of production and display of artworks, the certitude of the museum or art institution, and the rarefied status of works of art. Underwriting these various points of intersection between the works in Deep Comedy is an anarchic sensibility and an urge for expressions of disdainful amusement.

Deep Comedy included a series of performance-based works and opened with a night of performances on Friday, March 23, 2007. Brooklyn-based punk-rock duo Japanther presented a jump-in-the-fire performance of Laugh Dance, a new work conceived and performed with New York dance company RobbinsChilds. Elin Wikstrom’s performance took place at Ray’s Bar on Friday, March 23, 10 pm conducted the first part of her performance for Deep Comedy, an art-style pub quiz with invited artists, curators and collectors alongside Marfa folk as contestants. Wikstrom hosted the second night of the quiz the following evening.

Opening weekend festivities culminated at Ballroom Marfa’s Liberty Hall on Saturday, March 24th, 9 pm with a rare live appearance from the composer, musician, and artist Sam Prekop.

Prekop is one of the architects of the influential and highly innovative Chicago underground music scene. Long known for the naturalistic alloy of jazz-inflected compositions and exotic textures that he helped pioneer with his indie-rock projects Shrimp Boat and the Sea and Cake, Prekop managed, as ever, to confound expectations with his most recent solo release, Who’s Your New Professor, an album of airy abstractions and a chiming, unusually electric aesthetic. Prekop performed at Liberty Hall with fellow Sea and Cake musician collaborator Archer Prewitt — himself a noted presence on the Chicago scene — for this very special Ballroom evening.