“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
Mel Brooks, The 2000 Year Old Man (1961)
“Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
Carol Burnett, as quoted in Starting from Scratch (1989) by Rita Mae Brow
When I was a child, I would often look at a copy of the Divine Comedy illustrated by Gustavo Dorè, and wondered where in Dante’s work was the comedy; those violent images (I actually never went past Hell, where they became rather boring) seemed to me to have little funny about them. Many years later I discovered the works of Nan Goldin, Andres Serrano and Yasumasa Morimura, and felt I became a child once more, in a new Dantesque Circle of the nineties. More than twenty years have passed since these extraordinary artists have created the images you can see on exhibit, that in the meantime are in collections in the most important museums and have become part of our daily language: sex, death, illness, if viewed through the lens of time all become moments of the Human Comedy. We can also recognize ourselves in the surreal disguises by Morimura; how often have we ourselves actually tried to present ourselves as what we not even remotely are? These artists have returned from Hell and have come interrogating our quotidian existence, and became an inspiration to generations of photographers and artists, having stared at horror in the face and extracted beauty. Today, we are proposing them to you once more, certain that you will look at them with a different, complicit and tender gaze, as you would a photo of yourself from years past, and realize that maybe that hairstyle looked just fine after all.