Lot 39
  • 39

Wade Guyton

1,800,000 - 2,400,000 GBP
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  • Wade Guyton
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 2008 on the overlap
  • Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen
  • 244.8 by 140cm.; 96 3/8 by 55 1/8 in.


Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York

Private Collection, New York

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good and original condition. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
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Catalogue Note

"Fire is always captivating… There's a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings… in the way the ink drips and runs."

Wade Guyton quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wade Guyton OS, 2012, p. 204. 

Evincing an impressive feat of monochrome lines and blazing white flames Untitled is a striking product of mechanical reproduction, paradigmatic of Wade Guyton’s unprecedented deployment of the quotidian inkjet printer. Guyton’s radical evisceration of conventional doctrines of the traditional medium of painting has led him to become a trailblazer of contemporary American art. Over the last decade his awe-inspiring canvases have been celebrated in critically lauded exhibitions worldwide and are included in major institutional collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

Forcing colossal sheets of heavy linen through the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 – the largest printer of its kind – Guyton transfers an astute combination of powerful simplistic imageries onto the canvas. Swapping the artist’s paintbrush for the mouse and keypad he combines simple computer generated forms with digitally scanned images – a process that explores the concepts of authorship and appropriation, which have pervaded the conceptual investigations of Twentieth Century avant-gardists such as Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Joseph Kosuth. At first glance the elegant thin black lines of his paintings evoke the slick minimalist aesthetics of modernists like Frank Stella and Ad Reinhardt. However, this exacted minimalist doctrine is assaulted by the stuttering schematic strata of the printed ink that reverberates across the surface of these monumental paintings and candidly delineates the radical physical process of their making.

Created in 2008 and depicting the immediately recognisable image of blistering flames, scanned from the cloth cover of a scrapped book, Untitled is a pertinent continuation of one of Guyton’s most dramatic canons of work. In a poetic dance, smouldering flames elegantly lick up the immense canvas as though melting into the trembling black surface beneath them, where dark pools of sporadic drips and skids have diluted the controlled linear composition. As the artist poignantly explained: "Fire is always captivating… There's a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings… in the way the ink drips and runs. The first time I printed the fire on linen was one of those brutally humid New York summer nights. No AC in the studio. I was sweating, and the paintings were melting" (Wade Guyton quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wade Guyton OS, 2012, p. 204). 

Unlike other works from the series in which giant colourful U’s are sweltering in scorching orange flames, the present work is executed in black and white, a chromatic polarity that is more akin to Guyton’s X paintings. Relinquishing the vibrant painterly quality of the earlier fire paintings, the present work highlights the stark mechanical process of digital production and draws greater attention to the central seam that bisects the composition. Characteristic of Guyton’s large scale canvases this vertical division is a trace of the artist’s process of folding and re-feeding in order to fit his oversized swathes of linen into the printer. Allowing the formal and conceptual identities of the work to be governed by the mechanical limitations and remote spontaneity of the printer, Guyton explored the possibilities of artistic creation against the backdrop of our digital age. As pointed out by John Kelsey, “Sending these pages through a desktop printer, interrupting them with his programmed marks, the artist intervened directly within the mediation of artistic practice, discourse and value… And as the painter or printer elaborates ways of using that somehow remain out of reach or blind to the author, he also learns to displace himself with a strange ease between discourse and design, communication and image… The artist intervenes where the production of communication by means of communication happens, in the black of the font and in the sending of the image” (John Kelsey in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Friedrich Petzel Gallery, Wade Guyton, 2007, n.p.).