Private Collection, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Wade Guyton quoted in: Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wade Guyton OS, 2012, p. 204.
Created in 2005, the present work belongs to Wade Guyton's iconic corpus of ink-jet painted canvases, the Flaming Us. The inherent climactic movement of a vividly smouldering flame scanned and printed onto canvas, an image taken from the dust-jacket of Stephen King’s 1980 novel Firestarter, builds to a crescendo of movement that is boldly balanced by the artist’s signature letter U stamped in garish yellow atop of the image. The dynamism that Guyton achieves through this aesthetically audacious juxtaposition of baroque flame and minimalist alphabet is further emphasised by the black ink that, counterintuitively, drips upwards onto the letter to echo the movement of the flames. These uncontrollable elements of chance – almost alchemical interactions with the printer – are typical of Guyton’s working process. Operating in the margin between digital and manual, pictorial and literal, the artist’s post-Duchampian appropriation and incorporation of quotidian technology, such as printers and scanners, into the realm of painting, allowed Guyton to formulate an entirely novel visual and conceptual dialogue. For his celebrated series of Flaming U’s, Guyton chose a pictorial motif that contrasted with his previous, purely minimalist and austere repertoire of stripes and letters. This new semiotic complexity explored the idiosyncratic coexistence of all-over abstraction and cut-and-paste collage, and further allowed him to develop a discourse whereby visual material is appropriated and transferred to a new code of imagery.
The industrial printer Guyton used to create this series, an Epson Stylus Pro 11880, was not intended to handle the thickness of the linen and was thus literally choked with the primed canvas during the execution of these works. The resulting compositions were thus entirely unpredictable. The back and forth dialogue of giving up control and attempting to regain it is inherent to Guyton’s working process, in which chance is integral to the creation of these mesmerisingly seductive yet theoretically complex works. Where artists from the Pictures Generation, such as Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, or Richard Prince, appropriated an image and collapsed its temporal and spatial dimensions by removing any authorial sources, Guyton deliberately renders visible the sources from which he works. The torn cover of the book is not obstructed but openly displayed at the top of the canvas whilst the presence of pixels is emphasised by the enlarged JPEG file Guyton has used. The white printer lines that evenly cut through the black surface recall Guyton’s preceding geometric stripe paintings and add a further compositional element to the complex dichotomy between digital perfection and mechanical error.
By pushing the technological limits of his working materials, Flaming U openly displays the traces of Guyton’s struggle to bring an image from the screen onto the canvas. Appropriating the computer as his palette and utilising the printer as his paintbrushes, Guyton has redefined the perception of painting in the Twenty-First Century; just as Pollock had previously done with his dripping technique, Warhol with his silkscreens, or Richter with the squeegee.
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