The God of Dark Laughter
School of Visual Arts presents “The God of Dark Laughter,” an exhibition based on the short story of the same name by Michael Chabon and featuring work by first-year MFA Illustration as Visual Essay students enrolled in the program’s Book Seminar course. Curated by faculty member and alumnus Viktor Koen, the exhibition will be on view Saturday, January 19, through Saturday, February 9, at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City.
Every year, Koen’s Book Seminar course takes a notable short story as inspiration for a class assignment. Containing elements of murder-mystery, an “ungettable” joke, ancient riddles and circus acts, this year’s selection, by the award-winning author of Wonder Boys and other works, provides the foundation for 18 uniquely conceived and executed projects. While these visual treatments may share a literary point of departure, each leads the viewer to a different destination.
The assignment’s results—an exhibition of selected works and a publication encompassing the entire project—are clearly visible. The students’ work of developing and testing a personal artistic process is less so. Through inspiration, challenge or curiosity, “The God of Dark Laughter” provided guidance toward a series of images that penetrate together or apart, as singular expressions of artistic voice.
Treatments of the story include direct representations of the plot (or related myths) in comic-book form, movie posters in different genres, animated transformations of split personalities, Instagram entries, fantastical card games, imagined interiors compartmentalizing the psyche, images revealing secrets under ultraviolet light, traditional freak-show reveals, and scrolls of frenetic circus or bizarre cabaret action. In some cases, elusive points in the narrative inspired work that visualized the missing parts. There is also psychological portraiture depicting personal loss, battling demons and the work of mending a broken life.
Taken as a whole, this exhibition composes a puzzling, gruesome crime scene that doubles as a search for the ever-elusive meaning of life.
Presenting works by Cecilia Abeid, Authan Chen, Jiawen Chen, Dani Choi, Ishita Jain, Grace J. Kim, Hwarim Lee, Yuke Li, Xinmei Liu, Boris Lyppens, Hui Ma, Laura Peretti, Peter Phobia, Chris Reisenbichler, Kelsey Short, Dora Wang, Luke Wohlgemuth and Zaiwei Zhang.