- Wade Guyton
- Epson UltraChrome inkjet on canvas
- 90 x 53 in. 228.6 x 134.6 cm.
- Executed in 2006.
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2006
Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wade Guyton OS, 2012, fig. 31a, p. 100, illustrated in color (in installation at the Kunsthalle Zürich, 2006)
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Microsoft Word is Guyton’s palette; the keyboard is his paintbrush. Guyton types, enlarges and duplicates the letter U in various attractive hues, positioning the resulting forms on his screen atop a JPEG of flames scanned from the dust-jacket of a book he can no longer recall. Treating these computer-generated shapes and digitally scanned found images as Duchampian readymades—forms unique for their minimalist, visual appeal—Guyton then prints the files on monumental swathes of primed canvas, folded in half to fit through the machine.
His paintings candidly record the extraordinarily physical process of their own making. In the skids, smears and stuttering lines reverberating through the surface of Untitled, we can imagine the stops and starts of Guyton wrangling the heavy linen through the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 inkjet printer—the largest printer Epson makes. The still wet ink is smudged, accumulating minor scratches to its surface. The seam horizontally bisecting the center reveals Guyton’s folding, drawing the viewer’s attention to the gestural flipping and re-feeding of the linen through the artist’s Epson twice in order for the image to span the whole width of the canvas. Critic David Frankel describes Guyton as “a virtuoso of the inkjet the way Pollock was a virtuoso of the pour…” (Suzanne Cotter, ‘Double Negative’, Parkett 85, 2008, p. 94) Guyton’s painterly process, though indefatigably intertwined with the digital medium, evokes a heroic romanticism akin to the iconic photographs of Jackson Pollock dancing magisterially across his studio floor, captured by Hans Namuth for Life Magazine in 1950.
In the present work, a white U hovers hauntingly above the center of the picture, resisting the magnetic downward pull of the red U engulfed in flames below. Content and process merge bewitchingly, as the flames scanned from a book’s clothcover—rendered visible in the creases and wear to the edges of the black fields—acquire a sensory power, seemingly heating the red U until its ink ripples and bleeds into the canvas. Guyton compellingly explains: “Fire is always captivating. I thought of it as romantic, but camp. Destructive, but also generative. And of course hot. There’s a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings, which I didn’t predict, 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.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wade Guyton OS, 2012, p. 204)
Guyton, whose work is now held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, first moved to New York from a small town in Tennessee in 1996. While studying at Hunter College under the tutelage of the revered minimalist sculptor Robert Morris, the artist worked for seven years as a guard at the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea, surrounded by the work of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Dan Graham, artists whose influence is substantially palpable in his oeuvre. Guyton’s paintings slickly combine the tenets of Minimalism with the aesthetics of Modernists like Frank Stella and Ad Reinhardt, while investigating contemporary means of mechanical reproduction akin to Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Guyton’s visionary peer Christopher Wool.
Epitomized by the magnificent cool of 2006’s Untitled, Wade Guyton is an action painter for the digital age. Emerging off the white-hot heels of his critically acclaimed mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2012, Ann Temkin, chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art, emphatically aligned Guyton within a lineage of modern trailblazers who radically transformed the very notion of painting: “You tap a keyboard with one finger and this very large painting emerges. It’s gone against everything we think of as a painting. Pollock flung it; Rauschenberg silkscreened it; Richter took a squeegee; Polke used chemicals. Wade is working in what by now is a pretty venerable tradition, against the conventional idea of painting.” (Ann Temkin cited in "Painting, Rebooted," The New York Times, September 27, 2012)