The Tablecloth Picture Plane

oilcloth concept roundup, [clockwise from upper left]: but which Guyton? Richter Strip; a Rothko; Sturtevant’s—or any, really—Felix candy carpet

Yesterday on the good social media, I floated an idea about custom-printing an oilcloth for our table instead of stalemating over off-the-roll options. When I realized custom was even an option, my mind went first to Guyton/Walker, probably because tables, but also because their poppin’ designs feel like riffs on the most garish tropical oilcloth patterns out there already.

But then it occurred to me, what is a Wade Guyton painting but an artisanal and auratic, custom-printed textile? Which one would be best as a tablecloth? If process is the determinant, Gerhard Richter’s Strip paintings are also printed. But what isn’t these latter days of the flatbed picture plane?

I had the Felix Gonzalez-Torres catalogue raisonné out, and its all-over cover photos of candy suddenly felt like the perfect combination of representation and abstraction, object and pattern. But what color?

The Gonzalez-Torres image universe spilled out before me. Bead curtain? Death by Gun? [oof.] The dark surface of the sea? A bird in a cloudy sky? Black with a couple of lines of biography and historic events printed along one edge? Then I realized I already had a solution. Or at least an option.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, “Untitled” (For Parkett 39), 1994, ed. 1/84 sold in Fall 2023 at the auction of a complete set of Parkett editions at Van Ham, Berlin

Sure, we could print the entire image of footprints in the sand from “Untitled” (For Parkett 39). Or, we could use the eight screenprinted panels of the 3×7-meter billboard edition separately. Except they are mostly square, around 160 x 170 cm, each, plus some border/overlap. So on their own, they don’t fit our rectangular table. They would need to be pasted together in a vertical pair. Do they need to be laminated? Coated? Thrown over with a clear vinyl tablecloth like at Grandma’s? Beyond unworkable, it feels wrong. [lmao as if the whole idea isn’t bad enough.] I’ve taken my Parkett billboard sheets out like twice, and that billboard stock is thick; they are not your crafty mama’s butcher paper.

So printing it is, I guess.