- Wade Guyton
- Epson ultrachrome inkjet on linen
- 214 by 176cm.; 84 1/4 by 69 1/4 in.
- Executed in 2008.
Private Collection, Europe
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Guyton has now become highly acclaimed for his manipulation and usage of the ‘Tiff’ computer file; not because it is of primary concern to him, but because technology is an inherent part of contemporary daily life. He was particularly fascinated by the typology of generic abstraction; avoiding the physicality of putting pen to paper, Guyton’s initial explorations involved exchanging hand-drawn letters for typed characters printed on book pages. By moving from paper to high-quality primed linen, Guyton folds his canvas vertically in half and manually feeds it through his printer. Affixing the final ‘painting’ to a traditional stretcher, Guyton ironically avoids ever touching the surface of his artwork. During these workings, he was at first effectively ruled by the constrictions of the printer; the canvas would clog up the inkjet heads and create spaces in the ink lines as well as creating jagged angles and pools of ink. Guyton, however, learnt to manipulate and direct the printer accordingly, purposefully creating errors for various effects. He explains, “I’ve become interested in when something starts as an accident and then becomes a template for other things, or reproduces itself and generates its own logic until something else intervenes to change it” (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 23).
Executed in 2008, Untitled is from Guyton’s later series of black paintings, which is a wonderfully powerful example of the artist’s masterful renderings of this highly original and distinctive technique. These paintings came into being when Guyton decided to print a solid black box over unsatisfactory errors he had encountered with one batch of linen from the factory. The result was an accidental black monochrome. Here, he has energetically pulled a gigantic swathe of canvas through an Epson large format printer, and repeats this process in order to create distinctions in the tone and depth of the ink. Despite the many layers of pigment that are printed on top of one another, the surface of Untitled retains its smooth sheen, reminiscent of the coated book pages that he used in his original ‘drawings’. Although described as a ‘painting’, the ink never seeps into the canvas, nor builds up like the impasto that one would expect to find on an oil painting, for which this particular type of linen was originally intended.
With its grand scale overpowering the viewer, one cannot avoid being transfixed by the shades of opaque ink in Untitled; the eye darts from section to section, attempting to uncover the artist’s planning or logic. The lines of ink seem to reverberate against each other in an optical rhythm, synonymous with a fusion of musical scores. The art critic John Kelsey observes that “The monochrome is a record of a circulation. As it copies and communicates, discrepancies are produced. And these are what now stand in for painting […] The monochrome is a document that tells us nothing but its own circulation, presenting the pure possibility of communication by a possible artist” (John Kelsey cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Friedrich Petzel Gallery; Paris, Galerie Chantal Crousel; Frankfurt, Portikus, Wade Guyton: Black Paintings, 2007-08, n.p). From file to printer to gallery wall, where Guyton triumphantly communicates this logical yet abstract production process that ultimately rests with his audience. Untitled marks a step in contemporary painting’s evolution; Guyton pushes technology beyond its original purpose, overloading it until it is no longer readable in its original state. Although the ‘painting’ is made in unfamiliar ways, the final look of it is familiar; in Untitled, we therefore feel a sense of unease as we are faced with something alien yet strangely familiar at the same time. In the present work, Guyton masterfully explores the boundless possibilities in Contemporary art today with astonishingly tangible authority.