The Art Guys were conceptual artists whose collaboration spanned more than 35 years, from 1983 to 2019. Michael Galbreth (1956-2019) and Jack Massing (b. 1959) met as students at the University of Houston in the early 1980s, where they worked together on several projects. Their first official collaborative work was "The Art Guys Agree on Painting," in which they dipped their hands in paint and shook on it, creating a drip painting beneath.
The Art Guys experimented with a wide range of materials and activities, using a “direct-to-the public” methodology that often circumvented the established art world. They staged exhibitions and events at grocery stores, movie theaters, airports, restaurants, sports arenas, and many other non-traditional venues, while also exploiting mass media and entertainment to explore contemporary society.
The Art Guys are perhaps most well known for their numerous staged performances, public spectacles, and “behavioral” interventions that challenged perceived divisions between art and life. Described in the New York Times as “a cross between Dada and David Letterman, John Cage and the Smothers Brothers,” The Art Guys often used humor and everyday materials as a way to demystify art in an effort to welcome a broad range of audiences. Their work was likened to medieval court jesters and fools, a comparison they appreciated greatly.
Articles about their work have appeared in national newspapers and magazines, and many television news shows. Two monographs of their work, The Art Guys: Think Twice and SUITS: The Clothes Make the Man were published by Harry N. Abrams, New York. The DVD The Art Guys: Home On The Range, a compilation of 25 years of video works, was published by Microcinema International.
The Art Guys’ work has been included in more than 150 exhibitions in museums, galleries and public spaces throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Most recently, their work is included in the 2021 installation of the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in its new Kinder Building.
The Art Guys (l-r, Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth) in "SUITS: The Clothes Make the Man" 1998. Photo: Mark Seliger