From 2010 to 2012, Jayson Musson became an internet sensation with ART THOUGHTZ. Over the course of 20 YouTube-based performances, Musson (through his character Hennessy Youngman) incisively satirized both pop culture and art “insiders,” exposing the elitism of the art world and critiquing contemporary art while offering new ways of understanding the cultural landscape he traversed. Ten years later, art institutions are re-examining their role and acknowledging the fault lines in their foundation. Yet at the same time, the fundamental instrument of validation in the art world—the field of art history—remains narrow in scope and entrenched in a Western, male-dominated canon. This will be the focus of Musson’s next cultural critique, with an approach that equally informs and interrogates through his signature humor and accessibility.
Investigating the ways in which popular art historical images impact our cultural consciousness, His History of Art will explore the key question: In what ways can humor address inequality in the arts? “With Jayson as an Artist-in-Residence with FWM, I wanted to showcase Philadelphia and the incredible work that happens here,” says FWM Curator Karen Patterson. “I’m excited to work alongside Jayson to learn the ways in which his research acumen and disarming sense of humor can help us uncover truths about inherent inequities in the field of art history.”
“Good humor always moves toward truth,” Musson explains. “This exposure of truth is what causes a joke to resonate with a listener and connect with their often-unspoken experiences and feelings. Jokes uncover, jokes expose, jokes bring into the light things which are oft buried by individuals and a society. Comedy’s propensity to dig up skeletons and parade them in front of an audience with little regard for consequence or moral constraint is one of the main reasons it has been a useful tool in exposing inequality and grand social failings.”