Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Funk Art

In the late 1950s, artists who were starting to use junk materials or “the leftovers of human experience,” as Kienholz called it, were described as “funky” — or bad-smelling. Funk artists reacted against Abstract Expressionism, which they considered too removed from humanity. They sought to bring the contemporary art scene back to including some realism and social responsibility. Funk artists liked often to use shock tactics in the Social Realist traditional of cultural critique and protest.

Bruce Conner (1933- )

George Herms (1935- )

Ed Kienholz (1927-1994) — worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, as a used car dealer, and at the Whitworth College of Education in eastern Washington.

Roxy’s (1960-1961)
A Las Vegas WWII-era whorehouse.

Back Seat Dodge ’34 (1964)

Portable War Memorial (1968)
This piece points out that war has become a part of everyday life to which we have become oblivious. The tableau is divided in two part: on the left, images of the military and of patriotic war memorializing; on the right, customers at a snack bar. That the “memorial” is “portable” suggests that the wars are endless and interchangeable, and not all that signficant. The chalkboard allows victims’ names to be erased and replaced.

The 1960s saw a boost to another funk movement in San Francisco, a less scathing and more humorous branch given to visual and verbal puns.

David Gilhooly (1943- )

Elephant Foot Stool (1966)
Camel Foot Ashtrays (1966)
Clark Gable and Rhonda Fleming on the Slopes of Kilamenjaro Incense Burner (1966)
Persistence of Pizza (1983)
The King and his Elvi Gather for a Last Supper of the King’s Favorite Dishes (1996)

William T. Wiley (1937- )

Animal Music of the Spheres (1996)
Cripples Frightened by Cosmic Downsizing (1996)

Viola Frey (1933- )

World Civilization Bench III (1996)
Mask of Tragedy Series (1998)

Works Consulted

The Art Book. London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996.

Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002.