Derision, Nonsense, and Carnival in the Work of Greg Curnoe

Katie Cholette


During the 1960s the late Canadian artist Greg Curnoe became the nucleus of a vibrant arts scene in London, Ontario, establishing a series of studios, exhibiting his work at various venues, and masterminding several audacious performances. Curnoe, a lively and outspoken extrovert, was a devotee of the early twentieth-century Dada movement with its rejection of aesthetics, espousal of “anti-art,” and acceptance of chance, randomness, and absurdity. Curnoe’s humorous works and the anarchistic activities he engaged in were not just fraternal antics or facetious mockeries of the establishment. Throughout his career he used humoristic strategies drawn from Dada along with aspects of the carnivalesque to systematically undermine and challenge the art establishment, collapse the boundaries between art and life, and create an interpretive community within in which he could promote his career. This paper will demonstrate the central role that Dada and the carnivalesque played in his life and work.


Canadian Art History; Canadian Visual Culture; Carnivalesque; Collective Identity; Greg Curnoe; Humour; Irony; National Gallery of Canada; Parody

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