A funny thing happened recently. Artist, critic and our go-to appropriation expert Greg Allen has turned joke tweets by artist Jayson Musson (and sometimes internet art critic “Hennesy Youngman”) into paintings. Jokes such as, “I think Moby is on the N train rn but you just can’t go asking small bald white men if they’re Moby. That’s racist.” Ha!
Instead of the expressive, gestural application of paint that was so fashionable, @TheRealHennessy tweets are silkscreened onto a flat, monochrome canvas. Similar to his re-photography of existing images, this approach removed the artist’s hand from the work. Despite this conceptual strategy, @TheRealHennessy Tweet works are nonetheless considered first and foremost as paintings. As he jokingly remarked, “the ‘Tweet’ paintings are abstract. Especially in Europe, if you can’t speak English.”
“If Jayson hates me, he’s keeping it all inside, so win-win,” Greg Allen told ANIMAL. At the time, Jayson Musson’s response has been “HAHAHAAHAHA.”
Greg Allen, @TheRealHennessy Tweet Painting, DILF, 2014, 14×11 in., acrylic and screenprint on canvas
In his @TheRealHennessy joke tweet painting series, Allen is referencing Donelle Woolford’s Dick Joke series, which was a highlight of the last Whitney Biennial. Woolford’s dick jokes on canvas appropriated the concept from Richard Prince’s Joke Paintings. (I couldn’t find one Prince Joke Painting specifically about dicks, but here’s that one about a psychiatrist stealing his act, which is also on this Christopher Wool painting in “collaboration” with Prince. Speaking of dicks, black female artist Donelle Woolford is actually “the creation” of white male artist Joe Scanlan.)
“I don’t really have much to say about Greg’s twitter paintings other than I really like them,” Jayson Musson told ANIMAL. “They’re funny as a creative gesture and formally, I find their overall jankiness pretty appealing.”
There is a slight “jankiness” to them, if we compare them to the perfect-sleek-and-toned beauty of Jayson Musson’s “Abstract Art” Salon 94 exhibit’s paintings (inspired by Modern Art set-pieces from the comic strip Nancy). Beef! Beef! Beef? No? Ok.
Greg Allen, @TheRealHennessy Tweet Painting, hiphop, 2014, 14×11 in., acrylic and screenprint on canvas
“The project is so appealing in fact that I may have to Jeannette Hayes his appropriation of my tweets (a la that whole Paddles 8 thing from a few weeks ago),” Musson went on, referring to net artist Jeannette Hayes’ printing out and putting some paint on Mattie Hillock’s Instagram art history joke collage, and the subsequent four-figure sale at Phillips digital art auction in London. Musson added, “The villain twirls his moustache, I mean the villain scratches his Philly beard. Dandruff falls out.”
To summarize internet-local highlights in #appropriationart…
Richard Prince: B+ for being the O.G. [“Joke Paintings” 1987-89]
Donelle Woolford: A for pwning the O.G.***Joe Scanlan: D- (Dick, minus.) [“Donelle Woolford,” …-2014]
Greg Allen: A- for keeping the discourse going [2014-∞]
Glenn Ligon: A+ for Richard Pryor “Joke” painting Cocaine (Pimps), 1993 in a double entendre of “appropriation” where the non-art one is racial inequality and Joe Scanlan is all like, wow that gives me an idea…
Musson Youngman gets extra extra credit for addressing this in 2011: “Art is not about making a sculpture out of scratch. Where do you find scratch in 2011?”