Smart Ass

Curated by Kelsey Nicholson

Smart Ass


Dustin Fosnot
Kora Jünger
Virginia Kleker
Susan O’Malley
Shannon Plumb
Ben Riesman
Ryan Thayer
Dan Witz

Curator: Kelsey Nicholson, Southern Exposure Curatorial Committee member

Southern Exposure presents Smart Ass, an exhibition exploring humor in conceptual art making. By focusing on the less serious side of conceptual art practice, the artists featured in Smart Ass find humor in their work. Quick thinking wit is a running theme uniting work ranging from sculpture to installation, drawing, photography and video. Often, the work goes beyond the one liner to expand our notions of what is comical. Sometimes we giggle from discomfort and at other times we find that we are ultimately laughing at ourselves.

About the Work

Dustin Fosnot constructs diorama-like animated installations that often depict snowy settings and landscapes. This Bay Area artist experiments with scale and employs Styrofoam - a material accused of destroying the environment - to represent the natural world. The comical, almost cartoonish aesthetic in his miniature scenes, and his mechanization of meteorological phenomena all take a lighthearted, irreverent approach to representing reality.

German artist Kora Jünger presents graphically simple line drawings which feature bold outlines and simplified facial characteristics and seem to reference illustrations for airline safety cards or instruction manuals. In the World’s Saddest Songs series, Jünger attaches witty titles to her drawings, entitling an image of an old woman blowing into a noisemaker Blow Job. Other drawings employ whimsical subject matter, like the inflatable jumping castles found at carnivals, to evoke a humorous effect.

Virginia Kleker is an Oakland-based video and performance artist who often investigates the dissonance that occurs between corporeal, psychological, and emotional identity. In a bold performance, the artist took a traveler’s luggage unauthorized from the baggage claim at the airport. After examining the contents and photographing herself with some of the clothing and personal effects, the artist returned the luggage to the airport, packed with a mock-search inspection notification form. Not only a commentary on travel safety culture and personal privacy, Kleker seeks to create a contrived intimacy between the subject and the inspector examining their belongings.

San Francisco artist Susan O’Malley responds to the realities of daily life and is fascinated with disparate topics such as manicured landscapes and marketing. She stages interventionist performance as part of her “residency” projects. O’Malley attempts to improve and beautify the residents’ lawns by creating installations and sculptures out of their existing property and possessions.

In conjunction with Smart Ass, exhibiting artist Susan O’Malley collaborates with Christina Amini to offer a PEP TALK session on Saturday, April 15th from 1 – 4 pm. The artists will offer twenty-minute individual consultations, providing their services of listening and offering optimistic advice to the public at no charge.

Shannon Plumb’s short videos harken back to the early days of silent film and comedic actors like Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy. These vignettes are shot on super 8 in one continuous take and then augmented with a simple soundtrack or narration. This New York drama student-come-filmmaker creates vivid caricatures of familiar figures such as an eager to please temptress, or acts out campy toothpaste commercials and public service announcements. Plumb cleverly captures the essence of her characters and her depictions invite the viewer to laugh out loud.

Ben Riesman is an Oakland-based artist working with sound, photography and video. For Smart Ass, Riesman collaborates with the public in the spirit of a gift. He will present evidence of these interactions at Southern Exposure. The viewer is left to question the goodwill of the project and wonder where the humor lies.

San Francisco artist Ryan Thayer presents two installations that explore consumer and corporate culture and space. Ceiling Tile Wall is a composition of acoustic ceiling tiles that has been built onto the wall, and plays with the ideas of space and purpose. Untitled (Experience of Place) is a closet-sized replica of an office that suggests the claustrophobic self-contained nature of that workspace environment.

Dan Witz, a New York street artist since the late 1970s, will be exhibiting photographs that document his prank series, in which the small tweaking of signage, architecture or found environments drastically changes the original intent. Many of his projects are downright funny, such the act of garnishing dog poop on the street with cocktail umbrellas, or anthropomorphizing residential façades into funny faces with the aid a bright red balloon “nose.” For this exhibition, Witz will also create and photograph a site-specific intervention in San Francisco.