New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: ‘David Shrigley & Tal R: The Notebook’ is a colorful testament to friendship

A collaboration between artists David Shrigley and Tal R is on display at the Anton Kern Gallery until Feb. 17.
Catherine Herber
(Catherine Herber for WSN)

Only one block away from the Museum of Modern Art, the Anton Kern Gallery hosts a collaboration between visual artists David Shrigley and Tal Rosenzweig, who goes by Tal R. The exhibition is a striking curation of paintings and satirical sketches, proving to be a dazzling and immersive experience for museum goers and art lovers alike.

The two painters first met in the early 2000s in Copenhagen, Denmark, while showing at the same gallery, and this recent collaborative project started with a notebook of ballpoint pen drawings that Tal R gave to Shrigley. They started sharing a sketchbook in 2005, in which they would take turns drawing doodles. When one book was finished, they would store it and start another. This cycle went on for a couple of years with the intent of eventually publishing their creations — which has been replicated in “The Notebook.”

“The works for this show were intended to be a sort of conversation between us; each responding to the other’s work,” Shrigley said in an interview with the gallery.

The interwoven pieces from the artists blend their styles together into a cohesive narrative, rather than thinking of them as two separate entities.

Tal R’s delightfully overbearing use of color in his pieces is part of what makes them so enticing. In his oil drawing “Mother and Child,” he incorporates every color in the rainbow, creating a joyful stature between the two subjects.

A framed abstract painting with various shapes and patterns which incorporates every color in the rainbow.
“Mother and Child” by Tal R. (Catherine Herber for WSN)

The palettes Tal R chose to work with reflect his Scandinavian background. Traditional Scandinavian folk art is usually bright and is made to elicit feelings of release and bliss for the viewer. Tal R incorporates similarly rich color schemes into his own work, but his Picasso-esque use of shapes and shadows evokes a more gothic energy that pairs well with Shrigley’s satirical use of profanity and personification, like in “Untitled (Unfuck Yourself Thru Meditation),” which is a painting with text reading exactly that. The two share a darker sense of humor that rebounds off each piece like an improv sketch.

Not only does each piece individually reflect a part of the artists’ friendship, but their tailoring of paintings as a whole represents the support needed to sustain a lasting relationship.

A framed painting of a pink human body with four arms and two legs which reads “FOUR ARMS TO EMBRACE YOU”.
“Untitled (Four arms to embrace you)” by David Shrigley. (Catherine Herber for WSN)

In Shrigley’s “Untitled (Four arms to embrace you),” he describes the being in the painting as having four arms to hug with. This four-armed hug, along with his “Untitled (It’s His Chair),” exposes how humans often take these simple pleasures for granted, simultaneously searching for a different life while neglecting the one they have.

A painting of a large, red, cushioned chair with a small dog on it. Above the chair, it reads “IT’S HIS CHAIR”.
Untitled (It’s His Chair) by David Shrigley. (Catherine Herber for WSN)

Tal R’s “Drawing Shiny” is a perfect addition to the gallery as it depicts his optimistic view of the world. “Shiny,” a shrimp, is shown first as a grotesque, gothic creature with little soul behind its eyes. However, the artist’s intense imagery and use of color add to the piece’s deep meaning — they add to Tal R’s beautifully presented portrait of life. The artist demonstrates that it doesn’t take a lot of effort or time to find one aspect of a seemingly dull situation worth appreciating, and it can entirely shift the energy in a more positive and ultimately beneficial direction.

A cynic might argue their techniques are juvenile or simple, but the simplicity of the artists’ pieces is what gives them such a comforting and youthful tone. Shrigley and Tal R truly embody the idea that it is the small things in life that bring the most joy, such as a shared notebook between friends. Even though the paintings don’t use as many brush strokes as a Claude Monet, they still encapsulate just as much feeling and warmth as any other respected artwork would.

Though Tal R and Shrigley introduce a collaborative foundation, they also leave a lot of room open for interpretation. This helps make the exhibition easily accessible to the general public, as viewers are not expected to find one specific meaning in the art. The bright colors, humorous dialogue and manageable size of the gallery make it perfect for families with kids, a stop in between errands or a brain break from the hours of studying philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

A short visit into the Anton Kern Gallery is all it takes to lighten up someone’s day. By simply entering the world of Tal R and David Shrigley, the viewer, too, plays a part in that sweet friendship.

Contact Bella Simonte at [email protected].

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