Spaghetti and ‘Cubist cokeheads’? Artist Scott Reeder seduces with humor.

Spaghetti and ‘Cubist cokeheads’? Artist Scott Reeder seduces with humor.

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Editor’s Note: The above video contains certain images that may not be appropriate for younger or more sensitive viewers.

Scott Reeder is a funny painter. Not funny-strange, but funny-ha ha: a painter with a sense of humor. His pieces have punch lines, sometimes in the title, and sometimes in the way they’re made. For instance, paintings of pinkish-colored, concentric circles or flat squares of color transform from mere abstract images into something giggle-inducing when you learn the titles are Continuous Hot Dog and All the Boring States. A sublime looking canvas that might call to mind a Cy Twombley chalkboard painting turns out to have been made with 50 lbs. of dried spaghetti, like a very advanced version of someone’s nursery school craft project.

Many modern artists have challenged the art establishment with humor – like Duchamp with his signed urinals. But as a classically trained painter who’s now on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Reeder says he’s not trying to “undermine these heroic painters.” His work is less a challenge to - and more of a conversation with – the great painters of the past. “The tone of it, what I’m trying to say,” Reeder insists, is, “have you tried spaghetti – as a tool?”

Some might know Reeder from earlier, Milwaukee-based collaborations with brother Tyson, like the web –based series Zero TV. Now his work has its biggest spotlight to date in the MCA’s revamped and rebranded 12x12 series, which for ten years showcased mostly local artists in their first solo museum shows, and which re-launches today with Reeder as Chicago Works. The show includes several new figurative paintings, Reeder’s title lists, and his biggest painting yet, a 14 by 25 ft. spaghetti painting on display in the MCA’s main atrium.

WBEZ filmed Reeder while he created this work, and spoke to him about why he makes paintings with titles like Cubist Cokehead and Symmetrical Pirate. They’re as funny as they sound, and you can see them in the video above.

Art/Work features contemporary visual artists exhibiting in Chicago talking about the inspiration and perspiration behind their creative endeavors. Chicago Works: Scott Reeder opens today at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and runs through Jan. 24, 2012. The MCA is a station partner of WBEZ.