Artistic subtlety: what happened to you, bro? Just when I think I’m consuming some under-explained metaphors, I open my clutched fists and 5 white doves fly out. Likewise with reference. Why does everyone assume the only person Westerners can identify is Harry Potter? We live in a world that revolves around big, blingy, easily understood iconography (probably because we wash everything down with Red Bull… It rots your brain). There remain few works of art that play with either of these notions. Hollywood doesn’t fund original screenplays anymore. Things are not looking up. UFC EXISTS, GUYS.
Thankfully, Matt Groening is a smartypants, and put out a really smart, subtle show – The Simpsons – in 1989, doing a really cool thing where he didn’t assume that all of his viewers were unsophisticated Cheetos-addicted dirtbags who lived in their mothers basement (although, I’m sure a good number of them were). It seems that Groening wanted to align his show with important visual culture.
Complex Magazine just put out an illustrated list of all the references to art made over the 23 seasons of The Simpsons and the results are impressive. The artworks range from Da Vinci and Bosch all the way to Pollock and Warhol. There’s an episode with Frank Gehry.
In one frame where Homer and Marge are visiting the Springsonian Museum, one can see references to Kazimir Malevich and Josef Albers. I only know those guys because I studied them in uni. Matt Groening… what a culture master.
Jessica Carroll is Toronto Standard’s editorial assistant. She’s really pretty and writes a daily column about stuff she thinks is funny/weird on the internet. She tweets at @jssckr.