At the end of 2022, David Zwirner presented a selection of photos by William Eggleston called The Outlands. They were color photos, richer, almost too vivid to easily process due to his magical use of the camera, but not to be outdone by the subject matter and how he frames the moment. From a distance, he captures a familiar America, as well as a fresh, impalpable view of the world. While his position and the location of the photos are evident, myriad questions about the intricate vastness of a vantage point are evoked. I recently told a dear friend that the reason I love Eggleston is that his best photos ask everything but so sublimely answer nothing. That feels like the highest compliment to give someone in the arts, and in that suggestion of Eggleston’s work, I immediately thought of British conceptual artist, David Shrigley.
Halfway through our Summer 2023 cover story with the Brighton-based artist, he offers an aside among many conversational detours that took place over several interview sessions. “I do have some facility in trying to render images that are recognizable to other human beings,” he said. “But I actually have come to the conclusion that it’s quite useful to be so inept. If I had more skill, objective skill, the work would be very different. And I feel like it’s actually an advantage to be a bit rubbish because, in some ways, that’s good, too.” In his work, Shrigley takes the most familiar of subjects, animals, household objects, or food, drawing them in a style one could call crude, interspersing them with satirical or jarringly blunt text. However, despite this unpolished style, he self-deprecatingly called inept, there is universal truth. Each drawing asks really big questions, and some really small ones, too, but they don’t claim to answer anything; they just want you to stop and take a look. Don’t let the mundane moments slip by. The world is both large and microscopic, and through humor and the occasional bit of biting cultural disparagement, keen-eyed Shrigley investigates the world, never over-explaining or lecturing. He presents his work in the context of the everyman, in engaging, simple drawings on paper. Clever and concise, and ever so sly. Ubiquitous and yet somehow, perfectly comprehensive.
It’s not unintentional that in the Summer 2023 Quarterly, our feature on photography looks up to the stars, into the far reaches of the expanding universe, offering an even bigger expanse of questions, beyond our own existence. We feature the autobiographical, deeply-personal, and explorative works of Zanele Muholi and their own explorations of the fluidity of identity. The Perez Brothers, Danielle Roberts, Jess Valice, Kezia Harrell, or Joshua Petker, all at different moments in their careers, each ask questions about their own life experiences, inviting us to join their explorations. Art is a reflection of life, and that doesn’t require a definition, but simply a closer look. —Evan Pricco
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