Sunday, April 18, 2010

Grotesque, Caricature, or something in Between

The grotesque has always been strongly associated with caricature, and even placed in the same category by some theorists, notably those who saw simple distortion as the basic principle in grotesque art. Caricature may be briefly defined as the ludicrous exaggeration of characteristic or peculiar features. Reactions to grotesque art and caricature are often quite different. Caricatures are seen as humorous distortion because a recognizable character or typical person are stylized in a ridiculous manner, reaching the point of abnormal. There appears to be a fine line between caricature and grotesque. Exaggeration of physical attributes is seen as caricature, but when the attribute is excessively abstracted until that attribute controls the rest of the face or image. Earlier in the semester we focused on Daumier, whose caricatures push past humorous and do move into the realm of disgusting.
Re-evaluation of this image in the context of comparing grotesque art with caricature reveals a darker side. In the slide lecture it was difficult to see the details of the work, but in this print the details speak to grotesque art, not caricature. There really isn't anything amusing about a dead child. I see caricature as quick, witty, and a bit crude. The image is strong and well defined, but does not send a message synonymous with caricature. I don't see a reasonable exaggeration that is inherently the difference of the two.


Just as a balance to show that grotesque doesn't always have to be disgusting in art, this George Grosz painting "Amalie" shows the lighter side of extreme exaggeration. Exaggeration of exaggeration or exaggeration for its own sake is also referred to as grotesque art. The use of simple objects and shapes to create a portrait is an interesting relationship to the print collages done by Richard Hamilton.

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