POST BY KAREN ARCHEY
Robert Rauschenberg Dylaby, 1962. Mixed media
Is it only a matter of time before innovative aesthetics are subsumed into meaningless art world drivel? AFC’s recent European tour exposed us to a barrage of art consisting of refuse-piled-on-refuse-then-painted. The aesthetic itself isn’t anything new, but I’ve yet to witness a connection made between the work of younger artists like Rachel Harrison and Brendan Fowler to the Combines or Gluts of Rauschenberg. This isn’t to say that Harrison or Fowler’s work is pastiche. While both artists riff off their art world precursors, an abundance of selections at the fairs this year weren’t as successful. Images after the jump provide a selective chronology of work–some successful, other less so–beginning with Marcel Duchamp and ending with a selection from this summer’s Liste Fair in Basel. While work included in this post is of composed of “crap,” it isn’t necessarily “crappy.”
Though Rauschenberg’s work provides the most identifiable starting point for crap-on-crap art, we could attribute the inception of pairing together banal objects to Marcel Duchamp. The artist, largely thought of being ahead of his time, initiated a shift in Modernist artistic production by coupling such quotidian objects as a bicycle wheel and stool for his Assisted Readymades.
Rauschenberg’s “Gluts,” all fabricated in mid-1980s Texas, consist of spare metal fused together by the artist. Unlike his Combines which pair non-metallic objects like tires, and sometimes taxidermy, Rauschenberg’s Gluts also aren’t painted. Much of the work here–especially that of Stockholder and Harrison–pairs consumer products with paint of a complementary color.
Both Cady Noland’s art work and career are WEIRD. Although she largely exists outside of the “painting on crap” genre at issue here, Noland created her own, uniquely potent visual vocabulary consisting of unexceptional objects like crutches, chains, and wall-mounted steel poles. Curiously, (as curator Bob Nickas has worked to popularize,) Noland “dropped out” of the art world after experiencing major success in the 1980’s. Also, who can forget the hullabaloo surrounding Triple Candie‘s unauthorized, fabricated “retrospective,” Cady Noland Approximately?
Jessica Stockholder from Sailcloth Tears, 2009. Image via Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Jessica Stockholder could be accredited with popularizing the practice of pairing brightly colored consumer products with painted interventions.
Is Gerwald Rockenschaub the artistic lovechild of Claes Oldenburg and Josef Albers? Largely unknown in the United States, the Austrian-born artist and DJ arranges sometimes inflatable, frequently blocky plastic objects. His installations often read as “blown up” paintings of geometric abstraction.
Rachel Harrison combines painterly and architectural elements with found, sometimes banal objects. I’m not sure if the Richard Artschwager reference that commentor Amory Blaine pointed out in a previous post is intentional, but if it is, I like Rachel Harrison more than I thought I did. While her work is fairly aesthetically pleasing and titles enjoyably jocular, I’m waiting for the artist to let her mish mash of pop culture and art historical references stew into something more dynamic.
I’m not sure if Brendan Fowler fits in here, but he probably matches the trash theme. During my last trip to Rental Gallery, I’m pretty sure I walked by some garbage on the street that looked strikingly similar Fowler’s work. That probably sounded awful and bitchy, but I’ve never before seen work consisting of pictures crashing through pictures in a gallery setting. It undoubtedly has a precursor of some kind though.
Alex Hubbard Weekend Pass (video still), 2009. Image via Gallery-C.
I’m not sure what to make of Hubbard’s work, but this video still looks similar to some of the above work. Beyond the aesthetic similarity, the artist’s use of material is a little confusing here: is that a hand made out of wax, giving me the bird with flames shooting out of its middle finger on top of a staple gun, on top of a plinth?
Ta-da! This work prompted our crappy list. Unless you’re Rebecca Morris, mixing Nickelodeon with Gerhard Richter generally won’t turn out favorable work. In fact, it gets our Piero Manzoni stamp of disapproval.