Program Type: 
David Shrigley

Brain Activity — Closes Sunday!

June 22, 2012 - September 23, 2012
Downstairs Galleries


David Shrigley: Brain Activity
Jun 22 – Sep 23
Downstairs Galleries
$10 Regular/ $8 students, senior, discount
FREE for YBCA Members & YBCA:You
FREE first Tuesday of each month • noon – 8 pm

“David Shrigley's art operates at the cross-roads of art, absurdity and philosophy…It's like Kierkegaard, only with marker pens, poster paint and crappily-made sculpture. ” — J.J. Charlesworth, TimeOut London

“When was the last time you laughed out loud inside an art gallery? And I don’t mean sniggering at contemporary art… (David Shrigley’s exhibition) should come with a promise: laughter guaranteed, or your money back. ” — Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph, London

“Shrigley’s characters often spout existential truths that would be at home in a Samuel Beckett play. ” — Elizabeth Fullerton, ArtNews

The work of David Shrigley effortlessly infuses a comedic sensibility into a serious fine art practice. David Shrigley: Brain Activity showcases the diversity of the artist’s work — seemingly amateurish, crude drawings, sculptures made of unusual materials, and installations characterized by incongruities of scale—offering insightful and often surreal commentary on the absurdities of life, death and everything in between. Irreverent and mischievous, Shrigley’s art presents the kind of odd scenarios you never come across in real life, but wish you did.

Based in Glasgow, Shrigley is best known for his pared-down drawings and animations that make witty, wry and deadpan observations on a range of everyday subjects and situations. Shrigley’s doodles have a lightness that belies their incisiveness; he has developed his own unique comic aesthetic that speaks equally to popular culture and fine art, yet remains unexpectedly amusing and easily accessible. Other exhibition highlights include a selection of films and a well-known series of photographs featuring discreet interventions that the artist has orchestrated in various landscapes and interiors, injecting comedic irony into otherwise everyday banal imagery.

David Shrigley: Brain Activity, curated by Cliff Lauson of the Hayward Gallery, London, is the largest survey of the artist’s work to date, and features groupings of drawings and paintings on paper, a variety of sculptures, several installations, sets of photographs and a selection of animations.

Organized by Hayward Gallery, London; Curated by Cliff Lauson

About the Curator
Cliff Lauson is the curator at the Hayward Gallery, London. He received his BA in English Literature from The University of British Columbia in 2001, and his MA in 2004 and his PhD in 2009 in Art History from University College London. Recent exhibitions include Tracey Emin (Love Is What You Want), Ernesto Neto (The Edges of the World), and Ron Terada (Ron Terada: Who I Think I Am). He has also written for Art Monthly, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing and Fillip.

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  • Brain Activity
    June 22, 2012 – September 23, 2012
    Downstairs Galleries
  • Opening Night Party
    Jun 22, 2012 7:00pm

    $12 Advance / $15 at the door / FREE for YBCA members and YBCA:You participants
    Be among the first to see the exhibition TimeOut London described as sitting “at the cross-roads of art, absurdity and philosophy… It's like Kierkegaard, only with marker pens, poster paint and crappily-made sculpture.” The evening's entertainment will include a rollicking DJ set and blood-curdling live performance by SF's very own garage rock trio Blasted Canyons. No host bar sponsored by Blue Sky Vodka.

  • Artist Lecture by David Shrigley
    Jun 23, 2012 1:00pm
    Screening Room
    FREE w/ gallery admission

    David Shrigley discusses his work.

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Related Programs

June 24, 2012 - 12:00pm
Downstairs Galleries

YBCA:You members are invited to this exclusive afternoon with artist David Shrigley. We’ll walk through his exhibition Brain Activity, talk with him about his work, and then enjoy a contemporary Chinese lunch at Fang Restaurant (660 Howard Street), all provided by YBCA:You.

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Artist Bio

David Shrigley (b.1968) lives and works in Glasgow. He has had solo exhibitions at venues including UCLA Hammer Museum of Los Angeles, Kunsthaus Zurich, Malmo Konsthall, Museum Ludwig, Camden Arts Centre and the CCA Glasgow. His work was featured weekly in The Guardian from 2005 to 2009 and he has had a number of books of his work published, most recently the retrospective What the Hell Are You Doing?: The Essential David Shrigley. He collaborated with animator Chris Shepherd on the film Who I am and What I Want in 2005. Worried Noodles, a CD released in 2007, features settings of the lyrics from his book Worried Noodles – the Empty Sleeve by artists as diverse as David Byrne, Franz Ferdinand and TV On The Radio.

Dave Eggers / David Shrigley Interview
The following talk occurred on Tuesday, Sept. 27 [2011]. It was conducted via Skype, and was the third time I had ever used that technology. I was surprised by how well it worked, and was also surprised that David Shrigley appeared so clean-cut and sane. Like most people who have loved his art, I assumed he was a much more bizarre and unhinged man. But he proved to be very presentable and polite. —Dave Eggers

D.E.: Are you in Glasgow?

D.S.: Yeah, I’m in my office.

D.E. What’s that screen behind you?

D.S. That’s my drawing board.

D.E. So you draw on a vertical surface like that?

D.S. Yeah, it’s an ergonomic prescription. I have a back problem.

D.E. I do, too. What part of the back is it for you? Let’s talk about our back problems. Let’s do 4,000 words about our backs.

D.S. Well, I have a lower back problem. I have ergonomic furniture as part of my treatment. Part of the furniture is this drawing board which is at a good angle, and I have this chair I’m sitting on there, which is kind of high up, and I’ve got a computer which is really high up. And I do yoga.

D.E That is hugely surprising to me.

D.S. I was there today, doing yoga. Sweating and grunting. And you know, I go on yoga holidays with my wife.

D.E. See, between your clean-cut appearance and the yoga, my perceptions have been totally upended. I thought you’d be doing this interview from a bar somewhere, where you’d be in the corner, drunk and filthy. One would presume it’s much more of a fringe personality who is creating the artwork you create. The person responsible for your drawings is not necessarily the person that’s doing yoga.

D.S. Yeah, yeah. When I’m talking about doing yoga, I feel like I’m talking about somebody else anyway. When people are talking about you, and writing about you and your work, it seems like they’re writing about somebody else as well. So I suppose it’s only right and proper that I should be writing from the point of view from somebody else as well. And also, I don’t really understand why anybody is really that interested in me either. I think the parts that I create are more interesting. They generally are kind of you know, slightly psychotic, dysfunctional, sociopaths.

D.E. You’ve said before that when you’re drawing, you’re taking on a role. That is, that there’s a persona, almost, that you’ve generated who is behind your work. That’s something that not everyone knows about or assumes — that the artist is often shaping a persona that’s different than the artist’s everyday self. But I wonder how you get to the place where you create. The drawings, at their best, I think, have a desperateness to them that I like to assume you’re only reaching after drinking heavily, or being depressed, or being alone at

D.S. Well, I’m quite disciplined about the way that I go about using my brain in that light. I’m always totally sober. There’s specific amount of caffeine and sugar and nutrition and work at a certain time, I suppose, to get stuff done. But yeah it’s kind of late in the evening I tend to get quite a lot stuff done, and also earlier in the day. As well as you get to your forties and suddenly you realize you’ve got to eat stuff otherwise you get really grumpy. There’s a certain zone that you get into that you’re kind of almost not really thinking anymore, but it just feels like it’s all pouring out of you like water out of a jug. But it’s not necessarily any good. Sometimes it’s terrible. But yeah, I do have those moments. But I’m also quite type B person in the sense that if I had a glass of wine, that’s it, game over. I’m going upstairs to watch CSI: Miami.

D.E. I think, though, that the viewer gets the experience that you are having fun, and that’s fairly rare. I think it’s what the viewer responds to with your stuff. It seems like a train of thought that actually reflects what goes through our minds — and that you’re not self censoring. But you must edit.

D.S. I guess there’s only 25 percent of the stuff that I make that makes it, that doesn’t go in the garbage or the recycling. I throw a lot away. My attitude towards it is very free about it, because I know there’s only a one in four chance that I’ll keep the drawing in question. And at that point you’re not really worried too much about making a mess of it.

D.E. But the mess of it is part of what works with what you do. The drawings are somehow funnier because of the awkwardness or the crudeness, and the crossings-out. You can’t improve upon how sort of perfect that mix is, between the text and these awkward figures, with their terrible hair, and their bones that don’t go in the right direction, the overlapping lines. Do you remember the moment when you arrived at your style?

D.S. I’ve always sort of drawn in that way, and that’s just my handwriting, that kind of drawing. That’s kind of the drawing that you use just to describe something to somebody. You say ‘I saw somebody that looked a bit like this’ and you just do a drawing. It’s not the kind of drawing where you’re trying to get their eyes in the right place, you’re just trying to tell somebody something as directly as possible. I guess that’s what that kind of drawing is, it’s kind of a non-drawing, in a way. It’s somewhere between handwriting and drawing. At a certain point I realised that I just wasn’t interested in objective drawing. I think my work has become quite stylized and I’m only interested in a certain thing. But then again there are also certain rules to what I do, like I’m not allowed to re draw or anything and it just is what it is. It’s not like I’m trying to consciously achieve a style, I guess, although I’m sure there is some kind of manner to it.

D.E. Between the casualness of the work, and the fact that it’s funny — these are art world no-nos.

D.S. I know a lot of people still don’t see my work as serious, because it’s funny. But then again, I’ve come to realise that the opposite of seriousness is not humor. The opposite of seriousness is incompetence. It’s somebody who isn’t really engaged with what they’re doing. And the opposite of humor is maybe sadness.

D.E. The art world does tend to attract a very self-serious type of person. I noticed that when I was in art school myself, and then when I worked at an art gallery. I tend to think that there’s a fear of acknowledging the inherent absurdity of, say, sticking a urinal on a plinth and calling it art. Duchamp knew it was absurd, and very funny, but I’ve been around a lot of art-world people who treat Duchamp with great seriousness, when that’s sort of the opposite of his purpose as an artist. It’s as if to crack a smile would be to diminish the importance of the work.

D.S. For me, humor is kind of volatile. I don’t think you’d ever judge a writer any differently according to the humor in their work, but they do that with fine artists.
Quite obviously I don’t really agree with that.

D.E. It’s a weird no-humor zone, right? But it’s a strange thing to remove humor completely from all visual art, but it has been removed from 95% of it, as if humor was some very tangential or superfluous part of the human experience as opposed to being very central.

D.S. I agree. I guess the odd thing for me is that I am kind of a real cartoonist, as well as being a real fine artist, in the sense that my work is filed under humor in the bookshop, sometimes as well as being filed under art. And also a lot of people who look at the work think I’m just one of those comic-book type dudes. Which is nice, but I guess I’ve got a foot in either camp as it were. To be honest, in terms of the way my work is received, I feel like I’m taken far more seriously than I should be anyway.

D.E. In your last few books, though, there’s a real clear mix of the outright funny stuff and there’s a lot of stuff that’s I think much more pained and political. Humor that I like comes from a place of anger, exasperation. I was re-reading a lot of Vonnegut recently, and then I was looking through your drawings and there was a similar sense of humor — a very dark humor that comes from a place of frustration, of wanting better for humanity.

D.S. Well, I suppose it’s a cathartic thing. It enables you to say what you want to say, and vent your anger about just the lunatic, idiot world we live in. I think I’m a much saner person because I’m able to be an artist, or be a kind of artist that I am, where you can make work about how horrible people are, and how unacceptable it is that they are so horrible and how unacceptable it is that people accept how horrible these people are. I kind of assume that’s a given for everybody, that everybody feels that there are quite a number of aspects of contemporary life in an advanced capitalist society, there are really unacceptable, but what can we do to change it? Make stupid drawings I suppose.

You can read the full interview in David Shrigley – Brain Activity (ISBN 978-1-85332-297-6), available to purchase at the exhibition and all good bookstores via Distributed Art Publishers ( Price US$40.

Limited Edition Print

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is proud to announce a new limited edition woodblock print by David Shrigley. The print is 22 1/2" x 16 1/2" on Hahnemühle Copperplate 300gr paper, printed at Kala Art Institute in an edition of 250 signed and numbered by the artist.

Advance sale price: $200 until June 21, 2012. (Price does not include CA sales tax or shipping and handling)
Purchase now »

More limited edition art from YBCA »

"Aim High" by David Shrigley

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Abundance Foundation
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Lam Research

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Exhibitions 12-13 is made possible in part by:
Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan, Meridee Moore and Kevin King and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Free First Tuesdays
Underwritten by Directors Forum Members