MUSAC - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León / Avenida de los Reyes Leoneses, 24
ES-24008 Leon

plan route show map

artists & participants


press release

The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (León, Spain) presents on 25 June I WAS A MALE YVONNE DE CARLO. Critical art can be sophisticated, even entertaining, a specific project for MUSAC curated by Dora García and Marie de Brugerolle. The show explores the use of the profound mechanisms of comedy as tools for unmasking, analysis and critique of the ideological, social, economic, cultural and political systems by a series of artists from the national and international scope. Through a selection of more than 20 works of varied techniques —video, objects, decoration, formal wear and performance— by the artists Ignasi Aballí, John Baldessari, Guy Ben-Ner, Julien Bismuth & Jean-Pascal Flavien, Stanley Brouwn, Guy de Cointet, Kirsten Mosher, Itziar Okariz, Allen Ruppersberg, Jack Smith, I WAS A MALE YVONNE DE CARLO proposes an approach to the arduous task of “showing the truth through humor”. On occasion of the show, a catalogue with texts by Dan Graham, Susan Sontag, Allen Ruppersberg, Jack Smith, Guy de Cointet, Dora García and Marie de Brugerolle will be published.

«I am together» concludes Dan Graham at the end of his text «Dean Martin/Entertainment as Theater». Deep comedy, comedy as a tool and a strategy, a weapon, could be the red thread linking the different artists and works chosen for this exhibition. Andy Kaufman, Lenny Bruce or Jerry Lewis are the true patron saints of the 10 artists from whom we have selected a group of 20 works: films, objects, sets, costumes and performances. Using irony, parody and entertainment gags, soap opera and advertising language, they explore a harsh, uncomfortable and edgy place: social- economical-institutional-what else? criticism.

Ignasi Aballí, John Baldessari, Guy Ben-Ner, Julien Bismuth & Jean-Pascal Flavien, Stanley Brouwn, Guy de Cointet, Kirsten Mosher, Itziar Okariz, Allen Ruppersberg, Jack Smith, have, perhaps surprisingly, many things in common. They are fascinated by the very object of their criticism; they celebrate it tongue-in-cheek; they incorporate the complex mechanisms of humor (see Freud's "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious") to reveal before the audience their labyrinthine relationships as spectacle.

The show will present a selection of rarely seen works by Guy de Cointet and Jack Smith. Coincidentally, their films have been partially secreted since they died, both prematurely, and it will be an occasion to re-discover this aspect of their works. Observation of an Old Woman (1971-72) by de Cointet will be shown for the first time since its creation. Smith's masterpieces I Was a Male Yvonne de Carlo, Normal Love, Flaming Creatures will be shown along with elements of the costumes that played a major role in the works. Books will also feature (books were main dramatis personae in the work of de Cointet and Smith) and we will present ACRCIT, the original newspaper edited by de Cointet, and the Beautiful Book by Smith.

The first restaging of Five Sisters (1982), de Cointet's last play staged during his lifetime, will be performed as a special event. In the exhibition space, the set of Tell Me (1979) and the stage props for De Toutes les Couleurs (1982) will also be presented. The show will also feature a series of drawings, My Marriage Turned Sour, in the form of a storyboard.

In the exhibition, Smith and de Cointet exercise the role of forefathers in the difficult task of «revealing the truth through humor». Other forefathers not strictly belonging to the art circuit but equally influential in the work of the artists presented here, Lenny Bruce, Jerry Lewis and Andy Kaufman, used strategies of humor —i.e. changing the scale of the stage (Kaufman); saying the four-letter-words not strictly on stage, but in the corridor leading to the stage (Bruce); adopting the ways of their more successful colleagues (Lewis)— to reveal the canny subterfuges of power, to expose the ideological system underlying the notions of entertainment and culture.

"Revealing power’s underlying subterfuges, exposing the ideological system underpinning the concepts of leisure and culture” could be a very good way to begin an essay on the 18-minute video Stealing Beauty by Guy Ben-Ner. All of the wisdom of the sitcom moves to IKEA, where Guy and his family dramatise, on the ready-made IKEA sets, the daily struggle of a family in an IKEA home, filled with price tags and loudspeaker announcements. The episodes of the sitcom end when an IKEA employee simply chucks them out.

With Untitled (1991) Allen Ruppersberg recreates, especially for the exhibition, a large checkerboard floor that was originally created for the solo exhibition he held at De Appel in 1991. A masterpiece that has long inspired younger artists during the years it was on view at De Appel, it formats the exhibition floor as a playground with Lewis Carroll undertones.

One of the artists who Dan Graham loves and often refers to as having an extremely distinct sense of humor is Stanley Brouwn, who is kindly allowing us to present a very unusual piece: 3 Corners (2007). It belongs to a series of wooden constructions representing variations on the theme of scale, measures and rules in different countries and times, in this case centimeters and Egyptian cubits.

The name of Ignasi Aballí will not be the first to come to mind when talking about art and humor, but then, as proved by the very revered presence of Stanley Brouwn, this is no ordinary exhibition on humor, and great comedians never did tell jokes. Very close to Brouwn's sensitivity, Aballí with his Bufades (blows) refers in a tongue-in-cheek, absurd manner to the idea of creation, time, and the artist's signature and concept. The collage List (Sex) reflects the obsessive collector and reader he is while frightening the authorities with both childish and sexually loaded terms.

Cartoons have always been a refuge for freedom and acid satire, even in times when "high culture" was extremely controlled and censored. And no cartoonist has come closer to the idea of counterculture than Robert Crumb. Crumb's series will present varied aspects of life and a powerful portrait of the artist as victim and martyr, promising to whoever will listen that he will try to do better and become a serious artist.

Jack Smith extended cinema to real life, Cointet took from his friends the lines and attitudes of his plays, Crumb draws inspiration from his own life, and Itziar Okariz, with her performance Pissing in Private and Public Places also refers to the very male need to mark one's territory, and the idea of a fluid leaving an invisible yet indelible mark on the museum floor is again emerges as a humorous commentary on conceptual (mostly male, heterosexual) art. She will also present, on occasion of the opening of the exhibition on 25 June, a new performance, Si tú eres tú, y yo soy yo… working on the idea of rap poetry, text, audience, and addressing the viewer.

She thus introduces the humorous side of pedagogy and enlightenment, which leads us to Baldessari's films Teaching a Plant the Alphabet (1972), I Am Making Art (1971), and I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (1971).

If Baldessari sometimes sings Sol Lewitt, Julien Bismuth and Jean-Pascal Flavien demonstrate that you can sing on a very small boat and still remain a gentleman. On a score by Giancarlo Vulcano, La Chanson en Amont is a performance specially created for the exhibition and will take place on the river that runs through the city of León on 24 September.

Another work specially commissioned for the exhibition is Kirsten Mosher's series Gumhead. If Okariz marks the museum with her urine, Mosher does it with the no less offensive and anarchistic gesture of sticking chewed gum on the clean surface of the institution. Kirsten Mosher will create a new work for MUSAC, both inside and outside e museum space, which will include her picture books Gumhead, Gumhead, ready or not and Gumhead's Sister. Mosher came to León to begin integrating Gumhead into the city and start her photography work on Gumhead's Sister. She explored several sites where the Gumheads could mingle with layers of graffiti, street signage and billboard ads. Mosher's cartoons escape into and out of the museum.


As part of the project, a catalogue will be published with essays by Dan Graham, Susan Sontag, Allen Ruppersberg, Jack Smith, Guy de Cointet, Dora Garcia & Marie de Brugerolle.

Critical art can be sophisticated, even entertaining
Kuratoren: Dora Garcia, Marie de Brugerolle

Künstler: Ignasi Aballi, John Baldessari, Guy Ben-Ner, Julien Bismuth & Jean-Pascal Flavien, Stanley Brouwn, Guy de Cointet, Kirsten Mosher, Itziar Okariz, Allen Ruppersberg, Jack Smith