Private Collection, Switzerland
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009
One of Stingel’s primary concerns has been the dissolution of the relationship between a painting and its exhibition space. The malleability of the silver Celotex insulation panels allowed Stingel to mould every surface of the exhibition interior, creating a shimmering, bewildering space in which the edges, corners and contours of the room were diffused and made immaterial. Walls were clad in this surface creating a spectacular silver room that gleamed with light reflecting off its surfaces. Over the course of the exhibition, viewers were encouraged to draw onto the silver surface, transforming an elegant pristine space into a site of cacophonous scrawls and graffiti.
Upon exposure to Untitled, one is equally immersed in a spectacular silver vision. Because of its reflective sheen, the Celotex resists the gaze, like a mirror, so that one becomes aware of their presence in the face of the work. And yet, through closer inspection, symbols, shapes and scribbles become increasingly prominent, dominating its surface. This painting visibly collected gestures from a thousand different sources. Stingel has privileged the anonymous scribbles and exalted them to equal status with his own decision making as artist. Instead of presenting the artist’s singular expressive gesture, the work depicts the mark of the other, so that the viewer becomes etched upon the surface of the painting. Stingel takes on the role of mediator and elevates the scratching and drawing of the viewer above the status of vandalism into something of great artistic value.
If Stingel's Celotex panels indicate a painting transformed, they might also illustrate a painting destroyed (by the nature of the audience's interaction with the piece). Evidence of this ostensible damage lies in the areas where the Celotex has been pierced through completely, revealing its wooden mounting. In turn, these scattered regions of wood add light touches of colour which perfectly blend with the viewer’s inevitable reflection.
Through the use of alternative mediums, Stingel, to quote “has developed a singular approach to painting that aims to undermine the very essence of the creative act. His works do not always conform to painting’s traditional definition of paint on canvas, yet in their simultaneous attention to surface, image, colour and space, they create new paradigms for the meaning of painting” (Robert Fitzpatrick, ‘Foreword’, in: Exh. Cat., Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rudolf Stingel, 2007, p. 9). In shifting some of the burden of artistic labour from himself towards the anonymous exhibition goers, Stingel is directly confronting the romantic attitude towards the painterly gesture.
Stingel’s work speaks about the passage of time, moving beyond mere representation towards an attention to the value of process. Every mark that accumulates on the surface, etched by crowds of visitors, is an explicit testament to this reflection on time. Time is laid bare by Stingel for us to revisit and reflect upon as our own presence shimmers in the surface of Untitled.
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