IN TRANSIT BETWEEN IMAGE AND OBJECT
Dike Blair Hugh Scott-Douglas Guyton\Walker
SHIPPING CRATES ARE USUALLY relegated to storage once the artworks they carry are placed on view. In Transit brings together four artists who make the crate an integral part of their work, repurposing it as both a sculptural form and a support for images. These artists present the elements transported inside the crates—inkjet prints on sheets of drywall, mixed media on paper, and linen prints—on the exterior surfaces of these same cases, conflating contents with container, artwork with utilitarian object, and display with transport. The use of crates in these works draws attention to the generally unseen mechanisms that enable the distribution of art in a global system. Today’s expanded schedule of biennials, art fairs, and exhibitions sends more art around the world than ever before. Yet, for the most part, the public learns about these objects from images reproduced in magazines, catalogues, and, ever-increasingly, online. These all originate as digital images, which replicate and travel with speed and ease between media and across networks, often undergoing transformations along the way. The works in the exhibition reference the seemingly limitless and almost instantaneous transmission of visual information in the digital age, while juxtaposing it with the comparatively slow, physical transportation of artworks by air, land, and sea. The images featured on the crates either symbolize movement or are rendered in such a way as to imply motion. They are created using tools associated with their dissemination, namely the scanner, printer, camera, and computer. In installations by Guyton\Walker, images
are transposed across a variety of supports, from canvases and paint cans to sheets of drywall secured to crates. Dike Blair’s painted wooden crates and small gouache paintings are based on travel snapshots, documenting transitional spaces such as doorways and gardens. The abstract markings in Hugh ScottDouglas’s prints, housed in road cases, are found on American banknotes—the ultimate symbol of circulation. These works ask us to consider differences in the ways that images and objects are reproduced, distributed, viewed, and, ultimately, understood. Incorporating the means of transport and storage into the artwork itself has a number of important precedents, including Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-envalise. His series of “portable museums,” begun in 1935, consists of miniature reproductions of his most significant works packed in small carrying cases, raising questions about reproducibility and the importance of the original. In the 1960s and 1970s, many artists associated with conceptual art, mail art, institutional critique, and Fluxus challenged the conventions of art distribution and exhibition display by making the very conditions of artistic production and reception the subject of their work. In the 1990s, Richard Artschwager and Martin Kippenberger exhibited irregularly shaped crates that were as unique as the art they were designed to accommodate, suggesting their status as interchangeable commodities. The works that make up In Transit continue this tradition into the 21st century, exploring parallels between the physical movement of artworks and the virtual circulation of images.
DIKE BLAIR Born 1952, New Castle, Pennsylvania Lives and works in New York, New York
Dike Blair turned to the wooden shipping crate in 2006 as a practical solution to a design problem. The sculptural assemblages that he had been making since the 1990s were delicate and difficult to store and transport safely. Rather than stow emptied crates in storage, Blair began to paint directly on their surfaces. In Dance Dance Dance, we see the collision of painterly and sculptural concerns. Blair replaces the light fixtures from his earlier sculptures with painted luminosity, seen in the abstract compositions that wrap around the multiple sides of the crates. On the front of each case hangs a framed painting, which ships inside it. The imagery seen on these detachable paintings was derived from a photograph taken by the artist of a rock garden in Japan, which he processed using various Photoshop filters. The lid of an opened crate lies facedown on the floor,
revealing a light red mist of paint that is interrupted by three white squares. The arrangement of the squares maps the position of the three crates in the gallery. Their careful placement replicates that of rocks in Zen gardens, suggesting that with Dance Dance Dance Blair has applied the principles of Japanese rock gardens to exhibition design. Standing upright and with painted eyes peering out at the viewer, these crates imply the human body and the act of looking. They also resemble doorways. This play between inside and outside and thresholds is echoed in the three Untitled paintings hung nearby. Based on photographs from the same trip to Japan in 2009, the pictures record the reflection of the cameraâ€™s flash in the frosted glass of bathroom doors and the glowing light beyond them. Two of the paintings show the same door, seen from opposite sides.
GUYTON\WALKER Wade Guyton, born 1972, Hammond, Indiana and Kelley Walker, born 1969, Columbus, Georgia Live and work in New York, New York
Working under the identity Guyton\Walker, Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker explore shared interests in image appropriation and mechanical reproduction technologies. For Untitled, the artists printed a striped pattern directly onto two sheets of drywall, which are shown affixed to the exterior of the crate that they are shipped in. What initially looks like a single progression of lines is in fact the same set repeated, with its colors altered. The smears and snags in the duplicated image are the result of the artists’ deliberate misuse of a flatbed scanner and inkjet printer. These instances of mechanical failure stand in for the artists’ painterly gesture, focusing our attention instead on the technological processes that reproduce and disseminate images. At the same time, the shipping crate and sheetrock reference the artwork’s movement between storage facilities and galleries, whose walls are often constructed from drywall.
At MASS MoCA, Untitled is shown as a discrete work removed from the visually chaotic environments that are typical of Guyton\Walker exhibitions. When looking at it here, like any image or object divorced from its context, only the effect of a network of interrelated works is visible, and not the network itself. The striped pattern in Untitled can be seen in other Guyton\Walker installations—along with recurring motifs culled from the realms of advertising, design, and fine art—which are repeatedly scanned and printed onto various material supports, carrying traces of previous iterations with them. These multiple transfers, along with the provisional appearance of the installations, are representative of the unrestricted and casual circulation of images that characterizes visual culture today.
HUGH SCOTT-DOUGLAS Born 1988, Cambridge, United Kingdom Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York
In his “Chopped Bills” series, Hugh ScottDouglas zooms in on alien markings found on U.S. currency. Magnifying and reprinting these mysterious markings on stretched linen set inside large road cases, ScottDouglas emphasizes their visual qualities over their function. The small ink stamps, commonly referred to as “chop marks,” accumulate with time as banknotes change hands, even across continents. Many speculate that these bills are used within illicit systems of economic exchange. Functioning outside traditional banks, the legitimacy of the currency is guaranteed by a known handler’s imprint, which regularly goes unnoticed once these bills reenter general circulation. Incidentally, these endorsements allow graphic imaging software to bypass anti-counterfeiting technologies embedded in the normal patterning of banknotes, and thus permit their conversion into digital images.
The pairing of images of currency with road cases, which are typically used to transport musical equipment, makes a direct analogy between the commodification of artworks and their circulation in the international art market. Scott-Douglas arrived at the form of the road case in response to the impermanence of exhibition displays and the transience of artworks. Rather than construct temporary walls for hanging his two-dimensional works, as is standard exhibition practice, Scott-Douglas inserts the linen prints into custom-built cases, which become part of the artworks themselves. As a mobile wall, the case preserves the original exhibition’s design, while also facilitating the work’s continual transportation and display. The two cases shown at MASS MoCA were fabricated for this exhibition.
interior: Dike Blair Dance Dance Dance, 2011 Painted wooden crates, framed mixed media on paper Installation dimensions: 72 x 55 x 216 inches Courtesy of the artist Guyton\Walker Installation view, Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009 (detail) Courtesy of the artists and Greene Naftali, New York photo: Luca Campigotto Hugh Scott-Douglas Chopped Bill, 2013 Dye sublimation on linen in road case 56 x 110 x 13 inches Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery photo: John Wilson White cover: Dike Blair, Dance Dance Dance, 2011 (detail)
In Transit: Between Image and Object January 25, 2014 â€“January 4, 2015 The exhibition is made possible by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. Special thanks to the artists; Greene Naftali Gallery, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco. Curated by Robert Wainstein.
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