Contemporary Artist: Hennessy Youngman

Hennessy Youngman is a persona invented and performed by Jayson Musson.  Youngman is the star of a series of popular Youtube videos called “Art Thoughtz.”  Musson adopts the stereotypes of young uneducated inner-city African Americans and hip-hop language while intelligently discussing various art topics.  Topics include Damien Hurst, relational aethestics, institutional critique, or performance art.  Musson himself has a BFA in Photography from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and he completed an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania.  The humor and genius of the piece is taking the stereo-type of hip-hop culture and then intelligently and accurately discussing fine art theory.  Musson cleverly appropriates the “low-brow” genre of the Youtube video to be used as a forum for discussion of fine art, art theory,  and art history.

I absolutely love these videos and find them inspiring as a young artist with an interest in internet culture.  Musson’s transgression and subversion of stereotypes is fantastic and I appreciate the way he cleverly repackages art theory to be more accessible.  I find the genre of Youtube videos, and digital art in general, to be much more relevant to contemporary life than more traditional mediums.  These videos have a certain reverence for the ideas being discussed but also serve as a somewhat sarcastic critique of the art world and it’s pretension.  These videos have become so popular in fact that Musson now lives and works in New York city and is invited to talk at various institutions as the character of Youngman.  My favorite video of his is y an episode of “Art Thoughtz” recorded live of a talk he gave at the Chicago Institute of Contemporary Art.  The topic of the talk is “millennials” that is people born between 1980 and 1990.  Musson, through Youngman, discusses the habits of millennials, specifically our adoption of technology in virtually every aspect of our lives.  Musson goes on to question how art and art galleries must adapt to meet the changes brought on by technology its role in our lives.


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