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Michael Rooks at the Chicago Cultural Center

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by Shawnee Barton

Michael Rooks’ latest show Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art opens at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 4. The exhibition brings together an all-star team of funny artists (think Tom Friedman and Erwin Wurm) with a few locals like Tony Tasset and SAIC faculty members David Robbins and Stephanie Brooks. The Chicago influence isn’t surprising since Rooks is a SAIC alum and his co-curator, Dominic Molon, lives in Chicago and is a curator at the MCA.

The show features over 50 works in various media. Must-see works include SAIC alum Luis Gispert’s video Block Watching (2002-03) and David Shrigley’s photograph Notice (1996). In Block Watching, an attractive blonde cheerleader, with extra long fake fingernails and lots of “bling,” lip-synchs to the noise of a car alarm. The incongruities within the work and the strangeness of the image together with the repetitiveness of the car alarm are certainly what make the video so intriguing. Shrigley’s Notice features a note and clay smiley face hanging from a lamppost in front of a residential building. The note informs the passersby that an artist is sculpting a “wee model” of them while they read. It’s a little creepy and a lot fantastic.

You shouldn’t go to this show expecting everything to be funny. Robbin’s photographs focus on comedians rather than their jokes. And, Michael Elmgreen’s and Ingar Dragset’s Safe (2000), is composed of a carefully ripped painted canvas hanging in front of a safe. There’s not just humor but irony in the fact that both the thief and the patron disrespect the value of the art.

Rooks doesn’t exclusively curate shows for the elitist, art-world set. His curatorial goal is to “move people,” and by “people” he means everyone. Laughter brings people together and, when introduced to art, provides an entry point for even those who are usually intimidated or uninterested.

Situation Comedy runs through April 9, and in case you’re wondering what’s next for Rooks after tackling a subject as broad, subjective, and loaded as humor: it’ll be love of course.

FEBRUARY 2006

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