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Ridiculous! Twenty Artists Who Are Not Afraid To Look Stupid review

Art Elephant West , White City Until Sunday February 2 2020
3 out of 5 stars
Ridiculous! Twenty Artists Who Are Not Afraid To Look Stupid review
Andy Holden, still from ‘Laws of Motion In a Cartoon Landscape’ (2011-15) © the artist

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Just act normal, alright? The world of art has always been filled with pretentious twerps who take themselves, and their own output, a bit too seriously. Which is what makes the idea behind this group show at Elephant West particularly attractive: eighteen contemporary artists who all like to look a little bit silly.

The show features paintings, video art, costume, sculpture and drawings, and there’s an accompanying schedule of performances. Individually, there’s some interesting pieces, like Anna Perach’s shaggy, bobbly, cuddly costumes made from carpet, or Paul Cole’s scrunched up ball of rejected paintings transformed into a monument to human failure.

Rosie Gibbens’s video, ‘SeDUCKson’ is also bizarrely mesmerising. The artist dressed up as a duck-woman hybrid (‘webbed’ feet from repurposed washing-up gloves and a big quacky metal beak made from a speculum) and tried to attract ducks with her sexy duck dance. Over the footage, a child reads genuine online comments on the relative hotness of Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse. And, as always, truth is way more weird than invention.

But viewed together most of these works get lost, like one kid pulling a funny face within a whole school photo of a thousand pupils. A central block of paintings becomes a big blur of colours, figures, shapes, and a cock or two. What’s missing is any sense of why these artists, a whole load of them, are serious about not being serious because you never get the chance to spend much time with any of them (in this respect it could have worked better as a group exhibition of fewer artists all showing a selection of works).

It’s gravest sin, however, is simply not being much fun. For a show about ridiculousness, it’s weirdly po-faced. The extensive gallery notes – especially on a painting of vulva-like flowers  are in precisely the type of art-wank speak you imagine many of the featured artists are sticking the middle finger up at. It’s the classic problem: jokes stop being funny once someone tries to explain them to you.

By: Rosemary Waugh

Details

Venue name: Elephant West
Venue website: elephant.art/west
Address: 62 Wood Lane
London
W12 7 RH
Price: Free

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