May 12, 2014

Wade Guyton And Anxiety In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

christies_skateboarder_guyton.jpg

Personally, the thing I remembered about Carol Vogel's puff piece a couple of weeks ago for Loic Gouzer, organizer of "If I Live I'll See You Tuesday," Christie's Edgy Sale, was that she'd used the word "seminal" twice in one sentence. But if I were an artist whose painting was being used as Exhibit No. 1 to illustrate it, I could see how the headline might catch my eye, too: "For Those Who Can Afford It, Christie's Is Selling Anxiety".

The sale was supposed to be a "mould-breaking auction," a "risky operation" meant to "shake things up" with artworks that "capture the raw angst" that the current "generation of rich embryonic collectors" are all hot for.

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image: burningbridges38/s IG

Christie's own idea of raw shakeup: a promotional video skateboarding video, showing skate pro Chris Martin tooling through the galleries and the back of the house, passing works and staff along the way. It was the most brilliantly ridiculous thing ever. For a day. Then someone pointed out embryonic auction star Parker Ito's own YT videos of his skateboarding around his studio. And someone else ran the numbers and realized that many lots were presold via third-party guarantees/irrevocable bids, so the actual angst of the evening's outcome depended entirely on one's own market ignorance.

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image: @burningbridges38's IG

Until Wade Guyton entered the game. Wade's 2005 painting Untitled (Fire, Red/Black U) had a starring role in the sale, the video, and the Anxiety article. And last week, as the video racked up views and scorn online, Wade introduced some real anxiety--by making more than a dozen new paintings, identical to the one at Christie's, using the same digital file. He then posted the images to Instagram. They stream out of his trusty Epson inkjet printer, are strewn across the studio floor, and flutter in the breeze like a fiery curtain on the wall.

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When she declared a slightly bent & restored aluminum painting destroyed last year Cady Noland reprogrammed all her remaining work, instilling collectors with the fear that the tiniest nick or bump might render their precious object unsaleable. Similarly, by revealing even the hypothetical existence of infinite digital replication--so far, all he's done is post pictures of canvases to Intagram--Guyton has stripped away the presumption of uniqueness, and has seized his work back from the outsized speculative frenzies that swirl around it. And the greatest part is that he did all this just days before the big sale [where he doesn't have anything to win, and much, potentially, to lose].

As Jerry Saltz wrote, "Whatever happens tonight, I admire an artist willing to tank his own market by flooding it with confusing real-fake product." And except that there doesn't need to be anything fake at all about the resulting works, I completely agree. This is awesome. [Even though it didn't slow down the sale one bit: Untitled sold for $3.5 million, a record. So win-win, depending on what actually qualifies as a win here.]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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