When I first laid eyes on a David Shrigley book, I was like, "You had me at Ants Have Sex in your Beer." Such a classic non sequitur is not to be ignored, and I knew instantly that I had laid eyes on a genius work of art. Or the ramblings of a prisoner. Either way, I loved it instantly.
I collected his books for years, obsessed with the text-laden, scribbly art, and photographs, some with cleverly placed signage marked with his distinct handwriting. I wouldn't even open the books first, I'd just grab them and pay up any time I came across a new one. One of my early acquisitions, a postcard book, holds a longtime favorite image: a sign placed near the water saying, "River for Sale."
A tiny bit cerebral and quietly hilarious, there is never enough Shrigley in my life. Until now! His really big exhibit, Brain Activity, just opened in San Francisco after traveling from the UK, where Shrigley lives and works (in Scotland), and I was able to sneak a few photos while the show was being installed. The pages of the books he is known for come to life, inviting you to wander amongst them like a tiny doodled thought in the artist's curious mind. There are sculptures that look like his drawings crawled off the page, animated films, murals, taxidermy, and hidden secrets. Be sure to look outside on the roof deck. The art insists.
David Shrigley, Do Not Linger at the Gate, 2008; courtesy of the artist.
David Shrigley's work is concerned with words, but he doesn't consider himself a writer. Text is no stranger to visual art, but Shrigley stands out because he seems to follow a stream-of-consciousness thread. He makes what he makes, and contextualization is rarely part of his process. He's interested in things like diagrams and labels, and as he says, his work is about everything: culture, religion, politics, sex, etc. It is diaristic and takes humor seriously. It is also absurd in the best way possible.
David Shrigley, I'm Dead, 2010; Photo: Alexander Newtown.
For Shrigley's loyal subjects (including many who are tattooed with his art), Brain Activity is better than a Diamond Jubilee. This will be the exhibition's only West Coast stop, so don't miss it. Long live Shrigley. God save the Shrigley!
Brain Activity is on view through September 22, 2012 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. For more information, visit ybca.org.