(born 1979, Bronx, New York; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York)
Hennessy Youngman is a swaggering, confident, gold chain-wearing guide to the contemporary art world: a hip-hop-inspired everyman and a tongue-in-cheek critic of the art establishment. As the alter ego of artist Jayson Musson, Youngman has inspired a viral Internet sensation and a cult following. Created in the confessional style of YouTube videos and reality television, Musson’s videos feature Youngman’s satiric commentary on everything from postmodernism to British artist Damien Hirst to how to be a “successful black artist.” This irreverent role-playing is carried out with dry humor, most of which derives from the initial contrast between someone who initially appears to be an outsider but then reveals insider knowledge of the opaque language of art theory and criticism.
In Art Thoughtz: Performance Art, Youngman trains his focus onto performance art, giving a short history of the medium and defining it as “annoying groups of people using your body and voice working in conjunction to create a compelling spectacle that heightens said annoyance.” Now with twenty-six segments recorded Musson’s Art Thoughtz videos reach more audiences than ever through their accessibility and ubiquity on YouTube. And, while the recordings remain targeted toward general viewers, they are especially insightful to those who understand Youngman’s references and the layered meanings and levels of interaction intended in the work. In addition to his Hennessy Youngman persona, Musson has created a diverse body of work that draws upon pop culture with a rich sense of humor.
Jayson Musson received his BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (2002) and his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania (2011). He was a participant in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2011. His solo exhibitions include Halcyon Days, Salon 94, New York City (2012); The Grand Manner, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2011); Barack Obama Battles the Pink Robots, Last Drop, Philadelphia (2009); and Too Black for BET, Space 1026, Philadelphia (2002). His group exhibitions include Through a Glass, Darkly, Postmasters, New York (2012); First among Equals, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2012); Syncopation, Grimmuseum, Berlin (2010); Disinhibition: Black Art and Blue Humor, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago (2008); and Peer Pleasure 1, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2006).