Audience participation, temporality, and memory are recurring themes in Stingel’s oeuvre. The present work combines the very best of the artist’s works on canvas, featuring repetitive, carefully stenciled patterns — in this case, the fence-like chain-link which the artist first depicted in 2008 — and process-based golden surfaces that recall his earlier gold-plated graffiti works in their metallic tone. Just as these preceding works presented viewers with the opportunity to leave their mark on Stingel’s insulation boards, Untitled invites us to consider its formal complexity, either through the semi-reflective surface of the painting in an introspective contemplation of participatory authorship, or via the gravity-induced drips that make visible the temporality of painting. Roberta Smith of the New York Times astutely observes: “Opulence is countered by austerity, spectacle is undercut by banality.” (Roberta Smith, “DIY Art: Walk on It, Write on It, Stroke It”, The New York Times, 29 June 2007) The unadorned chain-link fence pattern, presented against a resplendent backdrop of glittering gold, reveals the hazy distinction between painting and ornamentation, incorporating an arresting pattern that would otherwise be considered purely functional in its physical form, while repetition suggests the possibility of an infinite expanse beyond the canvas. Commenting on modes of austere formal modernism, while pushing his abstraction into the world of representation, Stingel's Untitled articulates this dynamic tension that suffuses his best work.
The present work pits form and function against one another in a thrilling dichotomy. With regard to his wallpaper paintings, which employ intricate damask patterns, Stingel explains that “artists have always been accused of being decorators, so I just went to the extreme and painted the wallpaper.” (the artist cited in Linda Yablonsky, “The Carpet That Ate Grand Central”, The New York Times, 27 June 2004) Just as Stingel chose to depict decorative damask for his wallpaper paintings to remove it from its ornamental context and disrupt our expectations of painting, so too does he portray chain-link fencing, spartan and practical, by taking this appropriated imagery from its functional context and situating it in a painting to erase preconceived notions of utility. At once compelling and perspicacious, Untitled masterfully transcends the conventions of painting in an adept balance between a pure exploration of the medium and aesthetic indulgence.
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