General Idea, Test Patterns, Trinitron

General Idea in front of Test Pattern: T.V. Dinner Plates from the Miss General Idea Pavilion, 1988, installed at Spiral (Wacoal Art Space), Tokyo, 1988, photo Tohru Kogure via ACI-IAC

General Idea made hundreds of handpainted porcelain sushi plates with the TV test pattern on them for their 1988 show at Spiral in Tokyo. They made 432 plates, in three grids of 144. [The work turned up at Miami Basel in 2019.] They also made an edition [MoMA says ed. 238; this guy says 300] which came in a cardboard box. The Stedelijk image is the best for getting a sense of what gorgeous objects these are, though it does make it easier to not read them as paintings.

General Idea, Test Pattern: T.V. Dinner Plate, 1988, collection: Stedelijk

Which is all useful context, I think, for this thick little painting, Black Trinitron #5, being sold next week at Doyle in New York. Sony had just introduced a Trinitron color TV where the screen was actually black, not grey, when it was turned off.

General Idea: Black Trinitron #5, 1987-89, 9 x 12 x 3 in., acrylic on canvas, at Doyle, 1 Nov 2023

But that may not be important now, or then, for that matter. In 2020, another test pattern painting, Trinitron #15 (1987), turned up at Sotheby’s in Milan, that was not black.

General Idea, Trinitron #15, 1987, oil and acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 x 3 in., sold at Sotheby’s Milano in 2020

These Trinitron paintings really get the collapse of painting and screen, the slight convexity of the cathode ray tube on the surface of the canvas, and the objectness of both painting and TV (though TVs were much deeper obv). But what they give is sushi plate edition, and the box the sushi plate edition comes in.

General Idea, Test Pattern: T.V. Dinner Plate, 1988, porcelain in original box, 9 x 12 x 3 in., collection: MoMA

[a few minutes later update: If it hadn’t been prompted by seeing the Trinitron paintings, I could have titled this post, “General Idea Dishes?”]