Does visual art need to be accompanied by a detailed explanation providing context, intention, and an overall narrative for it to be effective? Some would argue the exact opposite, that, like a good joke, if you need to explain it, well… then it’s really not that great in the first place. Does the work need to be affecting? Maybe that’s all that matters. Maybe even that isn’t a requirement for greatness. But, in the end, who really gives a shit? Does it touch you? Do you respond to it? Does it simply match the color scheme in the foyer? As far as I’m concerned, all that matters regarding the work of Barcelona-based artist, Joan Cornellà, is that I like it. I like it a lot, actually, and ever since catching a sample image or two, I’d been enthusiastically awaiting the press kit for his upcoming solo show this Thursday at Spoke Art. It arrived recently and, it doesn’t disappoint. This may very well be one of my favorite shows that the Bay Area gallery has hosted to date.
Outside of any broader context, Cornellà‘s work, pure and simply, makes me happy. I can speculate about the state and/or purpose of art, as a whole, all day long, but have no interest in over analyzing his pieces, because the act feels irrelevant. I believe that you’ll either “get it,” or you won’t and the separation of cultures and origin make very little difference, as far as ones ability to absorb the work or not. Depending on the piece, it might hit the viewer at different depths, from a surface level smirk to a dead shot, effortlessly penetrating one’s core — an immediate connection/understanding. As someone who, suffering from sleep deprivation, once laughed maniacally to the horror of the aging dental hygienist, as my wisdom teeth were drilled, sawed into fourths, and cracked out of my jaw without the aid of anesthetic, there’s an element to Joan‘s work that some very specific aspect of my being can relate to and is unquestionably drawn to, immediately. Sure, I like to crack wise, but the truth is that, sometimes, the only options that we have while strolling through the absurdities and terrors of our human existence are to laugh at the surreal nature of our “realities,” or to respond with tears. I, personally, prefer the twisted smile. And, if there’s one thing that I can say about Joan Cornellà that matters as much as anything else to me when I’m considering art, it’s that he makes pieces that I don’t feel like I could ever get tired of looking at. That alone, I believe is worth quite a lot.
If you’re in the San Francisco area this week, please make sure to hit up the opening reception this Thursday and point your eyes at these pieces up close-like. While you’re there, you can not only meet the artist in person, but also pick up a copy of his latest book, Zonzo, and get it signed.
Here’s a more detailed/direct breakdown of the show taken from the press release:
Spoke Art is proud to present a solo exhibition of new works by Barcelona-based illustrator Joan Cornellà. Working primarily in comics, this month’s show explores the twisted world that Cornellà has so carefully crafted for us. Through simple, wordless imagery, Cornellà is able to effectively convey all that he sees humorous, no matter how taboo.
Cornellà’s work has often been described as unsettling, disturbing or flat-out offensive, hence the often used NSFW designation. Through simplistic visual language, he is able to use satire to comment on the sinister and often bleak side of human nature through a myriad of unconventional scenarios. Everything from our unnatural connection to social media and masturbatory selfie culture to political topics such as abortion, addiction and gender issues – no subject is off limits. Cornellà’s work revels in its absurdity and impropriety.
Upon first glance, Cornellà’s work seems light-hearted and playful, his figures all share a generic blank smile and bright cheery color palette (akin to 1950’s advertising or Airline safety pamphlets) Upon further inspection however, the overwhelming morbidness and unnerving nature shines through with unparalleled force. Black comedy, at it’s core, is about satirizing subjects that are traditionally prohibited, things that are seen as too sacred or off limits. Cornellà pokes fun at such topics and cuts to their core with gags and minimal visual clues, illustrating scenes of cannibalism, infanticide, deification, murder, suicide and amputation (used most frequently). While some feel affronted by his work, many connect over it, laughing and feeling bad for laughing all at the same time.
Thought-provoking, honest and incredibly entertaining, Cornellà’s work is truly sincere and holds real potency in its message, even when disguised through blatant humor. Cornellà’s audience and fans share a certain level of skepticism and and cynicism that unify their shared experience. In the artist’s own words: “I think we all laugh at misery. It’s the most hilarious thing. And death, we all think about death but we don’t want to talk about it. So if you talk about death in a funny way it can be sort of cathartic.”
Check out a selection of preview images below the following event details…
Joan Cornellà – a Solo Show
Opening reception: Thursday, March 3, 2016
Spoke Art Gallery
816 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94109
Opening is ALL AGES w/NO COVER
Complimentary refreshments served
Artist will be in attendance and signing copies of his new book, Zonzo
Show on view until Saturday, March 26th
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1841288342764794/