– Autumn/Winter 2001

How Much Nerve Does It Take to Stand Up for 'Feminine Stupidity'?

Mirjam Westen

Tags: Lily van der Stokker

I had thought, on starting this composition, that I should define what humour means to me. However, every time I tried to, I had to go and lie down with a cold wet cloth on my head.

- Dorothy Parker, The Most of S.J. Perelman

Drinking beer with a nul artist ... If I were to organise a gallery again, it would be family oriented ... I want to be as trendy as possible but I am not so good at it ... I don't know what I am doing ... Going backwards is a movement too ... Shit, art is dead ... God help me find shape.

These quotes are just a few examples of texts that appear in the almost two-thousand drawings Lily van der Stokker has made over the last twelve years.1 I had to resist the temptation to quote more of them. At first glance her texts are neither spectacular nor ambiguous; rather, their power lies in their simplicity and lack of ambiguity. Summarising them alone would do little justice to the humorous impact of her work - some of her texts are capable of making me laugh aloud. Her art consists primarily of colourful drawings and wall paintings with texts, occasionally accompanied by objects such as sofas or box-like sculptures. The texts themselves are never a play-on-words, but resonate with the force of linguistic events. Their impact arises precisely from their specific relation to their form - articulated volumes and spirals, exclamation marks, (hand-written) fonts and an almost flickering use of colour. These 'bullets made of sugar',2 above all, work closely with the

  1. Lily van der Stokker was born in 1954 in Den Bosch, NL. Between 1975 and 1979 she studied at the St Joost Art Academy, Breda. She had been living in New York for a couple of years when, in 1984, she began a gallery in the East Village. The gallery Stokker/Stikker, which closed in 1987, showed work by Dutch and American artists who often worked in situ. Many different events took place there, including performances, theatre and dance. Since that time Van der Stokker has lived and worked alternately in Amsterdam and New York.

  2. According to Jerry Saltz in Art in America, October 1994, p.95

  3. E.B. White, A Subtreasury of American Humor, 1948, cited in Nancy Walker, A Very Serious Thing: Women's Humor and American Culture, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988

  4. The other artists in the exhibition were Renee Kool, H.W. Werther, Lydia Schouten, Giny Vos, Capital Gains and Seymour Likely.

  5. Peter Schjeldahl, Village Voice, no.14, 14th April 1992, p.105

  6. John Waters in Artforum, October 1998, p.32

  7. Hans den Hartog Jager, 'Bonnefanten in wankel evenwicht', NRC Handelsblad, 27 March 1999, p.9. He even attacked the museum's policy, identifying it with the curator's decision to show Lily van der Stokker. Julie Caniglia also referred to van der Stokker's work as 'agressively cute' in Artforum, February 2000, p.122

  8. Fechner, Vorschule der Asthetik, 1867, quoted in Oegema van de Wal (ed.), Proeve ener theoretische kleurenpsychologie, Amsterdam: Wereldebibliothek, 1963, p.29

  9. Quoted in M. Westen, 'de lustwandere van Ferdi Tajiri-Jansen', Ferdi Hortisculpture, Den Haag: Strom, 1992

  10. No Man's Time (exh. cat.), Nice: Villa Arson, 1991, p.160

  11. P. Schjeldahl, op. cit., p.105

  12. Suzi Gablik, The Reenchantment of Art, London: Thames & Hudson, 1991, p.13.

  13. Eric Troncy, 'Lily van der Stokker at the Cannes Festival', Art Press, no.196, November 1994, p.87