Ever since Freud's Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious appeared in 1905, humor both light and dark has frequently surfaced as a subversive, troubling, or liberating element in art. The Artist's Joke surveys the rich and diverse uses of humor by avant-garde and contemporary artists. The texts collected in this new reader from London's Whitechapel Gallery examine what André Breton called the “lightning bolt” of the unsettlingly comic, as seen in the anarchic wordplay of Duchamp, Picasso, the Dadaists, and Surrealists; Pop's fetish for kitsch and the comic strip; Bruce Nauman's sinister clowns and twisted puns; Richard Prince's joke paintings; art ambushed by feminist wit, from the Dadaism of Hannah Höch in the 1920s to the politicized conceptualism of Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger in the 1980s; the serenely uncanny in Mike Kelley's installations and the risibly grotesque in Paul McCarthy's; and the strangely comic scenarios of artists as various as Maurizio Cattelan, Andrea Fraser, Raymond Pettibon, and David Shrigley. Artists' writings are accompanied and contextualized by the work of critics and thinkers including Freud, Bergson, Hélène Cixous, Slavoj Žižek, Jörg Heiser, Jo Anna Isaak, and Ralph Rugoff. Jennifer Higgie is the coeditor of frieze magazine. She has published writings on such contemporary artists as Ricky Swallow, Magnus Von Plessen, and David Noonan.
Artists surveyed include Leonora Carrington, Maurizio Cattelan, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Fischli & Weiss, Andrea Fraser, the Guerilla Girls, Hannah Höch, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Barbara Kruger, Sarah Lucas, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenberg, Raymond Pettibon, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Arnulf Rainer, Ad Reinhardt, ED Ruscha, Carolee Schneemann, David Shrigley, Robert Smithson, Annikia Ström, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol Writers includeHugo Ball, Henri Bergson, André Breton, Hélène Cixous, Sigmund Freud, Jörg Heiser, Dave Hickey, Jo Anna Isaak, Ralph Rugoff, Peter Schjeldahl, Sheena Wagstaff, Hamza Walker, Slavoj Žižek