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MICHAEL CORRIS
at Liliana Bloch Gallery // by Todd Camplin

I have always admired the craziness of the Dadaist. They were extremely reactionary to

the political and social insanity of the first world war. When critics came out to declare in
the 1960’s a Neo-Dada movement, they seemed to forget the original roots of Dada. Sure
the surface of Robert Rauschenberg’s and Jasper Johns’ resembled Dada, but not much
else. Allan Kaprow’s happenings arguably came closer to the spirit of the artists performing
at Cabaret Voltaire. Personal I think the Fluxus artists best took the mantle of Dada. Their
anti-art movement smashed most of the last bits of the romantic ideals of Modernism. So,
who is continuing the tradition, while innovating in light of current political and social
upheaval? I would offer up SMU Professor Michael Corris as a candidate for keeping
the fire burning for Dada ideas.
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Of course, saying the Michael Corris is a new Dadaist would oversimply his work. He has the history
of Pop art, Minimalism, Conceptual art, and a host of other art biz word movements mixed up
into his work. Corris deconstructs the use of font, clip art, and color to create works that reference
graphic design while eliminating product placement or promotion of an event. Unless the
product/art is itself an ad for the book which in turn is also an ad for itself. These products/artworks
are not like the Pop art (with the exception of the Dagwood cartoon piece).  These works don’t
simulate the popular products, but rather Corris has created an internal system of product/art

that only references itself as the product using the language of graphic design.
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A theme that runs through many of the works are the cartoon men that are illustrated with smoke
for heads. These men are talking without listening and blowing smoke everywhere. I think of the
#metoo movement where so many men are blowing smoke out in denial or offensive counter to
the movement. I think of the politicians that try to distract people from the obvious solutions in
order to keep a small wealthy group happy. The men are releasing hot air. Corris recreates a
Dagwood cartoon that sums u
p the brutality of the current power structure. Dagwood is being
kicked by his boss. His boss yells, “is that definite enough?” If you have read many Dagwood
strips, he often is bullied by his boss. His boss thinks he is superior to his subordinates.

The most political shot across the room is the flag with the words, “don’t tread on me.” Often used
by Tea Party Republicans that have a libertarian bent. Most of the Tea Party support less of
everything when it comes to government. That means less of providing services, maintaining or
expanding regulations, and fewer taxes.  The smoke at the bottom gives Corris’ opinion of their
political and social positions.
Diminishing Man

David Aylsworth, Upon His Caterpillar Knee, 2015  
Oil on canvas, 45 x 48 in.
Corris clearly sees less is not more. I think Corris is far more subtle than Dadaist like John Heartfield
but no less politically passionate. Michael Corris’ art and book show will be over March 24th at
Liliana Bloch Gallery.
Harvest, 2017, acrylic on canvas,
46 x 46 x 1½"