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Some quirks, rants, and solid-gold design discoveries

American Grotesque

Attraction to strangeness, or perhaps curiosity as to why it's different. Not every human feels this tug, but for those who describe themselves as a "creative" it's often a common denominator. Perhaps the difference provokes you to consider another solution, a way to solve the internal and external concerns that are being grappled with. 

Recently someone described the comedy duo Tim and Eric as "American Grotesque," a term that Heidecker and Wareheim would likely appreciate. Their comedy is absurd, dark, sometimes crude, but absolutely intelligent. It's uncomfortable at times, but this strangeness allows you really pick apart the subject matter, excavate the commentary, and perhaps not glorify things too seriously. It is comedy after all, but it's groundbreaking in the sense that it's so blatantly unique, and strangely American. 

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To try understand Tim and Eric, well, it’s much better just to watch and observe for yourself. Often viewers feel a sense of confusion. The stories can and often do fall apart. There’s rarely a sense of a happy ending which can be troubling to some viewers. The true intellect comes from this idea that we don’t challenge ourselves to engage with the darker sides of absurdity, and doing so allows us to think more open-mindedly on real issues. It also brings us back to realism. It’s tempting to roll the laugh track, worm ourselves back into the comfortable comedy we know, but Tim and Eric forces the viewer to get uncomfortable. It’s extremely refreshing and necessary in today’s world of rose-colored media. 

Grotesque in a word, can be defined as "fully embracing empathy and disgust." It often plays off the human form to create a sense of human understanding but distorting it in a way that creates a revolt or a reaction. It's the familiar deformed. An artist that has been on the radar for awhile now who encapsulates this idea is  Christian Rex Van Minnen. He’s an American Contemporary Artist. Though he’s never had formal training, he delved into the gallery world, took his own initiatives to learn, and experienced various artist mentorships to push his skillset.

As he studied artists, he was drawn to the old masters such a Rembrandt. Using chiaroscuro, blending colors flawlessly, and using oil as the main medium. Source claim that Van Minnen’s favorite artist iOtto Marseus van Schriek, a Dutch master painter, best known for his paintings of forest flora and fauna. Like van Minnen, van Schriek uses a darker foreground so that the intricate subject matters can pop, and smaller details appear the longer you engage.

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“I’m a big fan of stand up comedy and comedy that leans into the absurd. I value the discomfort and destabilization that genre offers. In terms of visual art, I’m interested in art that describes emotions that are difficult to define, that space between beauty and horror, or humor and terror. They are dynamic gateways to self-knowledge.” — Van Minnen

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Van Minnen like Tim and Eric, doesn’t take himself too seriously. Even though he leans into the absurd, he packs a phenomenal talent especially for being a self-taught artist. He is finally being recognized for his gift at taking the human form and transforming it into a grotesque and fascinating work of art. Crudely drawn tattoos cover the portraits. These tattoos are conjured by Instagram live streams in which Van Minnen quickly paints at random a person’s comment. This unique way to include his audience results in unpredictable tattoo results, and gives ownership to his viewers. His followers value him for this bold approach and the exercise plays well into the notion of absurdity. 

Though Tim and Eric and Van Mirren are not the only one’s positioned on the grotesque, it can often feel as though the media we so prevalently see is awash in the warmer feelings of comfort and familiarity. The challenge is to remove ourselves from this and consider the disagreeable. The results could be a more open mind, and a more creative response.