Wit, Humor & Satire in Albuquerque

If you want to have a good laugh or contemplate a biting piece of social satire, head over to Wit, Humor & Satire at the Albuquerque Museum, on view through January 29.

Pulled from the museum’s permanent collection, themed sections of the show present artists’ side-glance takes on Western mythology, art jokes, image puns, and politics.

Right in the entry, you see the huge wall of Warhol Mao Tse-Tungs in blazing Pop Art colors, alongside Thomas J. Lane’s satirical ceramics – Bart Simpson impersonating Jesus and Homer as Buddha. Irreverant satire mixed with social commentary in impeccable execution.

Art history “jokes” and political portraits: Thomas J. Lane’s satirical Simpson ceramics with Warhol’s monumental 1972 Mao Tse Tung silkscreens.

There’s a dark 18th-century Goya etching in the first gallery and a funny Sloan print skewering 1920s tourists, but most of the offerings are more recent vintage, particularly whimsical sculptures and social commentary of the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. 

Comments on Commodification: John Sloane’s 1927 Indian Detour etching, a satire showing hoards of souvenir-buying tourists descending upon Indian pueblos on their Fred Harvey packaged excursions.

It’s nice to encounter clever Sixties and Seventies Warhol, Rauchenberg, and Red Grooms prints in other humorous sections of the show, and to revisit Southwestern superstars like the T.C. Canon and Scholder, who like challenging stereotypes of what people think of Western people and cultures.

Political commentary: Red Grooms’ 1976 silkscreen Bicentennial Bandwagon,”which references America’s troubled past versus all-out patriotic celebration of American history.

Most of the anti-War and social commentary are in the back half of the gallery, with strong pieces by Bob Haozous, John L. Doyle, and Sue Coe. Diego Romero lays it out with a lithograph that resembles his normal medium of politics-on-a-plate.

War: 1990 steel-plated sculpture El Piloto by Bob Haozous, depicting a skeleton pilot whose nose is a plane with a bomb trailing.
Political commentary: Diego Romero’s 2011 Apocalypto lithograph.

Another stand-out is the first poster ever designed by Keith Haring – a combination of images that came to define subterranean visual protest in the dark, scary times of 1980s New York. He debuted it for an anti-nuclear rally in Central Park, but his unforgettable images and icons soon became ubiquitous on City streets and subways, on T-shirts, and downtown art galleries.

Indigenous humor and commentary are well represented by Jason Garcia’s water-carrying pueblo gals in a contemporary landscape and Wendy Red Star’s Native seasons studio-portraiture spoof.

War commentary: Keith Haring’s first poster – his 1982 Anti-Nuclear Weapons Poster, featuring his iconic “radiant baby”.
Western mythologies: Subversive autumnal studio self-portrait from Wendy Red Star’s 2006 digital print series Four Seasons, which highlights artificial elements.

Too bad that no one knows who made the 1960s traditional Zuni pop-culture Disney necklace. But it’s fun to contemplate the Nike-sneaker sculpture/neckpiece by Sean Paul Gallegos.

Exploring wit: 1960s silver Zuni necklace by unknown artist featuring Disney characters inlaid with shell, coral, turquoise, and jet.
Commodification commentary: 2015 satiric “high fashion” neckpiece by Sean Paul Gallegos, created from recycled Nike sneakers and gold thread.

There’s a lot to think about and enjoy in this provocative show. Visit our Flickr album to enjoy more of our favorite works.

5 thoughts on “Wit, Humor & Satire in Albuquerque

  1. Fantastic! Good to see such clever, right-on, sharp witty, terrifically designed art all in one show. Excellent article.

  2. wow , Wow, WOW! What a show. It sounds like a party of all the greats. Of course Keith Haring sets the bar and Diego Rivera always nails it in any medium. Thanks

  3. Please correct your designation of my work being a handbag. If you attended the exhibition and clearly read the description, it was referred to as a Neckpiece and never a handbag. There is no way of opening and closing this sculpture and is meant to be worn about the neck.

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