Over the past two decades, David Shrigley (b. 1968, Great Britain) has created a diverse body of work distinguished by sharp wit and light-hearted absurdity, offering a humorous take on the most trivial and complex moments of human experience. Drawing lies at the heart of Shrigley's practice, and many of his works suggest an ongoing inquiry into the very making and presentation of art itself.
Life Model II (2016), the latest iteration of Shrigley's ongoing Life Model project, tackles the enduring art historical subject of the artist and model, and the related scenario of the "life drawing" class, in which students hone their skills. Deftly subverting this mainstay of art school curricula, Shrigley replaces the live model with a sculptural one and transforms the gallery into a classroom. Viewers are invited to sit, observe, and draw from the model using the easels and materials provided, and the finished drawings are pinned to the gallery walls to become part of the exhibition, challenging conventional expectations of authorship. Through this participatory project, Shrigley questions the cult of artistic genius, plays with power and gender dynamics, and reveals the inevitable breakdown in representation between imitation and imagination.
Shrigley's work to date has been based largely on invented situations rather than the physical world, but his return to the Life Model project prompted a noteworthy experiment. In a fascinating turn, the artist has put himself before the easel for the first time since art school, hiring a female model as his collaborator. His resulting pencil drawings are presented in counterpoint to the visitor-generated drawings and are characterized by an unexpected humanism and pathos, introspective even as they maintain a darkly humorous edge.
Concurrent with Shrigley’s exhibition, the artist’s animated video Start/Finish (2015) will be presented at Rosebud, the Rose Art Museum’s satellite gallery in downtown Waltham. This short tale puts the viewer in the driver’s seat on a comical road journey that inserts humanitarian questions into video game simulation. Start/Finish will be on view September 1 through October 29 at Rosebud (683 Main Street, Waltham; Thursdays and Fridays, 1–4 PM; Saturdays, 10 AM–1 PM).
Curated by Kim Conaty, Curator
This exhibition is made possible in part by the Rose Art Exhibit Fund and Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art.