The Fourth Book is an exhibition based on the artist’s bookwork, The Fourth Book, published by Free Museum of Dallas Press (2018).
For this exhibition, Michael Corris has chosen representative images from each of the six sections of The Fourth Book to use as the basis for fabricating independent, unique works of art.
The images found in The Fourth Book and on view in the main gallery are the result of Corris’s continuing innovative use of the tools of typography, graphic design, and illustration to create art. Referring to earlier works of this kind produced by the artist, The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith called Corris “a masterly artist of the printed word . . . a Saul Steinberg of the printing press”. (A brief survey of works by Corris from the late-1970s through the early-1990s is on view in the vestibule.)
This exhibition is a statement about the power of art — specifically the genres of satire and parody — to constitute a collective experience. Satire and parody are among the most empathic and accessible forms of visual expression because their subject matter is based on the shared experience and impact of social encounters and political events. For this reason, Corris maintains that satire and parody are deserving of serious attention as art.
An impulse to engage in, and give visual form to, critical discourse is the origin of Corris’s art. Throughout his career, Corris has created art in conversation with the world of contemporary art and the world at large. For the current exhibition, the artist turns his attention to the depiction of the exercise of power, gender inequality, and cultural appropriation.
Corris’s working method, with its reliance on historical research and appropriation, challenges us to consider some difficult issues currently facing visual artists. How narrowly can any political or cultural sign be defined? Is there such a thing as a “pure” cultural symbol? Can any one group lay claim to the meaning of a cultural sign absolutely? If, as cultural critic Kwame Anthony Appiah asserts, we are all mongrels of one sort or another, then what are we to make of the charge of cultural appropriation, with its negative connotations and prohibitions?