Julia Leonardos  14 Oct, 2016   Stories, Designer, artist, community, art x design, collection

Throughout history, text and repetition play an essential role in art. Whether an artist directly involves text in their work, imposes text onto an image, or repeats the same images and text in different contexts — the essential premises of the "meme" — it's all a part of the same tradition.

Below, we've compiled a list of the meme-iest artists and artworks, from Dada to Damien, for your consumption.

Of course, first up is a painting that itself has spawned countless meme'd iterations, the infamous Magritte ...


René Magritte's The Treachery of Images




Pepe the Frog
Pepe the Frog








Dat Boi
Dat Boi



British contemporary artist David Shrigley's work often consists of sketched, one-panel comic-esque vignettes. His work can be directly paralleled to several memes:



David Shrigley, original drawing for Sketch London
David Shrigley, original drawing for Sketch London




Everything is Fine Dog
"Everything is Fine" dog




From The Essential David Shrigley
From The Essential David Shrigley




Bob Dylan holding signs meme
Bob Dylan holding signs





One of David Shrigley's Venn Diagrams




Venn Diagram Meme
Venn Diagram Meme





Some artists, like Jenny Holzer, use text as their primary medium. She repeats the same words over and over, but against a different backdrop each time: Holzer's Truisms have been projected, engraved, screenprinted, typeset, and more, making her process not dissimilar to that of the meme's. Her statements span the mundane, the political, the devastating, and the humorous:



From Jenny Holzer's Projections
From Jenny Holzer's Projections




From Jenny Holzer's Truisms
From Jenny Holzer's Truisms




From Jenny Holzer's Truisms
From Jenny Holzer's Truisms 





Pop artist Ed Ruscha cites comics, typography, book design, and advertisements among his inspirations. His works both feature text, and combine text and images:



Ed Ruscha, I Don't Want No Retro Spective, 1979




Ed Ruscha, Happy Mess, 2006




Ed Ruscha, Uh Oh, 2012





The bulk of conceptual artist Barbara Kruger's work features black-and-white images overlaid with text in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique or Helvetica Ultra Condensed:



Barbara Kruger, Untitled, 1983




Barbara Kruger, Don't be a Jerk, 1996




Richard Prince often turns preexisting text and images, as in his Joke series, into paintings and other media:


Richard Prince, I Understand Your Husband Drowned, 1989





The Guerrilla Girls, everyone's favorite cultural watchdogs (watch Guerrillas?), coopt spaces and styles typically reserved for advertising — like billboards — to call out the art world (and beyond). The Guerrilla Girls' work is inherently meme-like, not just due to their use of text over image, but also because they constantly revisit their old works as a means of emphasizing their critique.



Guerrilla Girls, Poster, 1989





Guerrilla Girls, Poster, 2014




Guerrilla Girls, Anniversary Poster, 1985 & 2015





John Baldessari has been known to couple text and image (or even just text and the canvas):



John Baldessari, Pencil Story, 1971-72




John Baldessari, What is Painting, 1968





And London-based muralist Lakwena Maciver, who displays her art publicly on the streets, pairs sweeping maxims with explosively colorful abstract designs:


Lakwena Maciver, Be Bad Until You're Good, 2015




Lakwena Maciver, Power, Memories, Stories, 2014




Lawkwena Maciver, The Power of Girl, 2014





BONUS: Of course, no post on the "meme" in art history would be complete without one of the art world's original trolls, Marcel Duchamp.


Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., 1919




Marcel Duchamp, Why Not Sneeze Rose Selavy, 1921



So, the next time someone tries to send you one of these...

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-5-06-43-pm screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-5-12-19-pmscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-5-10-54-pm

Just hit 'em with the link to this post, and let 'em know that art history has its OWN memes, thank you very much.


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