Matt Johnson’s Routine

Reclining Nude, 2008, courtesy the artist and Taxter and Spengemann


There are a lot of artists who make funny art, or even funny-looking art—Richard Prince comes to mind on one end; Gelitin on the other. But very few artists make viewers laugh out loud like Los Angeles-based artist Matt Johnson, who alters readymade objects to irritate the viewer’s interaction with them. Puzzleman (2008) is a a sculpture made of pieces fabricated by Johnson, and a pun on “finding” any material. Last weekend, Johnson inaugurated the new and improved Taxter and Spengemann space in the East Village with a show of wooden sculptures, rather than the precious metals with which his work is typically associated. Asked to describe his sense of humor, Johnson said “plain but a little clever,” explaining, “I like the simple things that have meaningful undertones or layers of complexities.” For Reclining Nude (above), a one-liner, a chair that suggests the viewer sit on a woman, makes various allusion to design, function, and figural pop art to discuss the function of an artwork. The work draws few conclusions and often ends in non sequitur—not surprising, as Johnson cites his favorite comedities Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, and Seinfeld; his favorite comedian, “for sure was and is Mitch Hedberg.”

Taxter and Spengemann is now located in Frank Stella’s former studio, at 123 East 12th St., New York.