The reflective sheen of Untitled resists the gaze, like a mirror, so that the viewer becomes aware of his or her presence; yet, for those who commit the time to exploring each dynamic panel, the present work provides an endlessly engaging and rewarding experience. Rather than privileging the singular mark of the artist – like forebears Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning – Stingel collects the marks of his audience, putting the onus onto the public and directly confronting the Abstract Expressionists’ romantic attitude of artist as brilliant and mythological hero. Through this wry exploitation of medium and method, Stingel becomes a mediator between creator and final product, destabilizing authenticity and divorcing his own hand from the mold that is then cast into the present work. As individual incisions aggregate in rich layers of expression, each mark loses its unique identity and becomes absorbed into a collective mass. Text that was once legible dissolves into pure abstraction, subjected to a lyrical thicket of gestures and marks. In turn, Stingel amasses the inscriptions and reincarnates them anew through the electroform casting and plating process. Using this complex and multilayered process of creation, Stingel dissolves singular authorship in favor of a collectivized whole, which is then repurposed and redefined by the artist himself. Through this lens of audience participation and reproduction through casting, Stingel attempts to redefine modes of production and creation that complicate traditional ideas of authorship.
Stingel’s impressive career has been distinguished by a constant challenge of traditional genres of art - a project beautifully underscored by Untitled. Juxtaposing high art with graffiti, painting with sculpture, the individual and the masses, Stingel negotiates the tenuous relationships between distinct media. Gary Carrion-Murayari writes: “His work demonstrates an acute awareness of the aspirations, failures and challenges to Modernist painting, while at the same time expressing a sincere belief in painting itself, focusing on formal characteristics including color, gesture, composition, and, most importantly, surface.” (Gary Carrion-Murayari, “Untitled,” in Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 111) Consistent with the overarching themes in Stingel’s art, the present work bespeaks the passage of time, moving beyond mere representation towards the value of process. Every incision that accumulates on the surface, originally etched by crowds of visitors, is an explicit testament to this reflection of meditation on time. Existing as a frozen testimonial of collective memory, Untitled undergoes a process of relentless questioning of the relationship between an object’s mode of production and its creator. As a result, the present work is evidence not only of transformation within Stingel’s methodology, but also of transformation in the viewer’s physical encounter with the art object. In the all-encompassing grandeur of the present work, time is laid bare for us to revisit and reflect upon, as our own presence glistens in the surface.
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