The discussion of high and low culture has been a recurring feature of art since the late 1950s and the advent of pop. Indeed, the term has become synonymous with subsequent generations, foregrounding popular youth culture in its opposition to the patrician culture of a ruling elite, or indeed to the strictures of academia.
Brüggemann’s Joke and Definition paintings address this ongoing debate by squaring up the two distinct cultural discourses. He appropriates Joseph Kosuth’s series Art as Ideas (1966) and Richard Prince Joke Paintings (1985) by combining the sober dictionary definitions with arcane jokes in a single canvas. Kosuth and Prince have both appropriated and repositioned language through existing tropes: one referencing philosophy, or high culture, the other humour, or popular culture. Moreover, both artists have used ‘readymade’ elements of culture and presented them as works of art.
Brüggemann further expands art’s quotational nature – art in the Contemporary is always in some way about other art – but he refrains from explicit commentary; instead, he allows high culture’s sober authority, and popular culture’s speculative irreverence to coexist and meld with one another. He states that ‘I wanted to put them one on top of the other, making a piece where I did not have any aesthetic decision…all decisions were taken by the artists.[…] My decision is only to put them together, making an intellectual decision that changes everything.’