cover image What the Hell Are You Doing? The Essential David Shrigley

What the Hell Are You Doing? The Essential David Shrigley

David Shrigley. Norton, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-08247-0

The “gallery-type” comic art of acclaimed fine artist Shrigley, deceptively simple yet mind-blowing in its seditiousness and perspective-altering lexicography, goes where many have ventured: Saul Steinberg, Raymond Pettibon, William Powhida, and Maira Kalman among them. These artists all use text, not as a design element but for the value of text itself. Sometimes, the text integrates into a drawing or a photograph, sometimes not. Shrigley takes the idea the furthest, proving that it isn’t language that determines consciousness but the other way around. It’s impossible to leaf through this compilation and not emerge with the sense that some latent intellectual and emotional block, born of dread, has been at least partially lifted through a process akin to extreme mixed-media homeopathy. The variegated works showcased, from a Venn diagram presenting all the possible logical articulations of various behaviors (singing, dancing, stealing) to decapitated taxidermy (a cat, an ostrich), and dementedly funny sketches and panels drawn in Shrigley’s signature childlike style (for example, a cloaked executioner taking his/her dog for a walk after a successful slaying, and a boring bus ride) possess both an inherent dadaist quality and a strong sociopolitical subtext. Taken cumulatively, Shrigley’s comic illustrations and words have the effect of a miraculous mental booster drug. (Oct.)