His Art History – The Brooklyn Rail

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The workshop and the museum of fabrics
Jayson Musson: his art history
July 22 – November 13, 2022

In the second video of three in Jayson Musson: his art history at The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM), a well-meaning but haughty art collector “Jay”, aka Jayson Musson, in a russet corduroy, yellow turtleneck, kindly explains to his roommate, a hare pot smoker, Ollie “The history of art is not that complicated. Everything a man fucks kills and everything he kills fucks. They’re sitting on a sagging couch amidst a backdrop littered with historic replica art. We may see that of Félix González-Torres Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1991), clocks with the added text “OUT OF MONEY”, an unknown Frank Stella later leading to the time portal, and a Matisse-style painting in which a dancing figure stabs another with the light beam of a star of the background. And perhaps we half-expect to see Musson’s Coogi sweater “paintings” on the walls as a wry nod to the “organic” or “rhythmic” flow of paint splattered in a Jackson Pollock. It’s the dreamlike, absurd yet precise “art world” of Jay and Ollie, educating us from the hallowed grounds of television.

Musson kicks off his Mister Rogers-meets-Pee Wee Herman-and-Bob Ross sitcom by dreamily singing “Welcome to My World,” regaling Ollie and audiences with the transformative potential of art in the first video from his debut solo show. as Artist-in-Residence at the FWM, supported by former curator Karen Patterson, Acting Director of Exhibitions Alec Unkovic and Executive Director Christina Vassallo. The videos gradually lead into a behind-the-scenes passage, as FWM exhibits typically include animatronic puppet and costume sets – the fabric-oriented contributions – and scripts. Throughout the course of the exhibition, we learn that Ollie is interested in the art described by Jay and for the same reasons: the “art world” attends endless openings to please the “popes cool”.

Musson factually explains the dynamics of patriarchal, colonial, and capitalist power structuring the art world and instituted through strategies of cultural domination, appropriation, hoarding of resources, and perpetuation of the myth of genius. Performances of art historical knowledge spread that power, an act Musson performed with sardonic aplomb in Chain Gold in his viral YouTube feature “ART THOUGHTZ” featuring his former character Hennessy Youngman. In How to make an art. (2011), for example, Youngman, aka Hen-rock Obama, aka Pharaoh Hennessy, expresses his dissatisfaction with “outdated terms” such as talent in his art-making course. But connoisseur Jay still criticizes Ollie’s sage painting of tulips, taking them back through art history. Parodying the problematic but curious professor or the impassioned museum curator, Jay provides examples of the subjugation of the brutal Akkadian victory in the Naram-Sin Victory Stele (2254-2218 BCE) to “something Egypt” (1330 BCE) with the pharaoh depicted as a god-like sphinx, and finally Marcus Aurelius’ armor which, as Ollie illuminates, makes him look “like he came from the old money”.

Praising such abuses of power, Jay pushes Ollie to feed the cool popes their own poison. Ollie usurps control of the elites through branding and eventually assumes Jay’s place on a Christless Pietà throne, embodying the goofy humor that nevertheless runs the system to play it. It is perhaps no exaggeration to recognize resemblances between the screenplay and Musson’s original trajectory in the art world. He started on the fringes of art in Philadelphia with his rap group Plastic Little and collaborations with Spank Rock and Amanda Blank, followed by graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and creating characters and causing exhibitions. caustic riffs on elitist truth. But Musson seems less interested in speaking truth to power than in exposing the emptiness of the so-called truths that the art world repeats to itself, over and over, like a bad sitcom.

The bawdy adventures back in time with Ollie include vignettes talking with Willendorf’s curvaceous Venus “Willa” – which Ollie says looks like “something a divorced person would do in art class while drinking wine red”. They respond to a review with the patriarchal figure we expect to see in His Art History – Picasso – an incubus figure destroying flower painting to ‘attack mere normalcy’. And they embark on a studio tour with writer and collector Gertrude Stein, who declares iconoclasm sacrosanct and salon-worthy. Finally, Jay emerges from the scene as if from a dream. Jay’s awakening breaks the studio’s fourth wall, exposing the setup and his arrogance. Almost as bald as they emerged, Jay and Ollie let us browse props, production and scripts performed through institution-designed tags explaining art historical references, storyboarding processes and costume construction. .

If the scripts bring nuances to research and collective production, the labels flatter the performance of standardization that this same review also runs the slightly humorous risk of assuming. The time lapse and excerpts on display demonstrate the artistic process without repeating the grandiose estrangement of critic, curator, historian, collector and viewer. Perhaps the takeaway here is to avoid that stilted distance and instead imbibe the ghost that Musson values ​​in his “Some Sorta Outro” statement at the end of the FWM exhibit – the (attempt) to withdraw from the system as a self-proclaimed “artist”. ”