The group of New York writers who look like ’90s supermodels were having a cocktail they’d read about in a Vanity Fair article from the ’90s, laughing, wearing white pants to accentuate hips and flat stomachs, having more fun. More fun than the artists, was the point. It was a dinner for an art magazine, but that meant it was a dinner for the writers. Or at least they would make sure it felt that way for everyone else. The artists were mostly beautiful, too, but made to feel guilty about that sometimes, and so their chosen dress was between sexy and frumpy, disheveled Milan Kundera characters. It wasn’t looking good for any of the women there with hopes of getting laid. It wasn’t looking good for the editor of the magazine, either: the girl he’d hired to write about the party for another publication was very drunk, and the meal had yet to be served. This hired writer leaned over the table to say hello to a woman whose art she thought she liked, but wasn’t sure. “I know your work,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.” The artist was flattered. She wasn’t well known, but a big collector had recently bought two of her pieces and her gallerist was more optimistic than ever. She knew who this writer was, and couldn’t help but want to be her. The writer was thin and tall and black and friends with all the kids who admitted to being rich and who had parties in beautiful town houses. “It’s nice to meet you too,” said the artist, who was white and short. “I know your work as well.” By work she meant popularity. She must be a good writer, though, to have gotten so much attention. Was the writer rich, too? She was wearing a Gucci dress and gold Cartier bracelets, but anything could be borrowed or fake. As an artist, was she supposed to be able to tell, or was it better that she didn’t know? The show from which the collector had purchased her pieces was in a Lower East Side group show. Every artist in it was female, but that wasn’t the point of it. The next thing she did shouldn’t be so body-centric, she thought, looking at all the other artworks. It was becoming boring. When she sat in her studio, thinking about what to do next — the move after what most would view as her first one — her gaze would drift to the window, and through it, a mylar balloon bobbed on a tree branch, its remaining opaque color confettied around a silver seam. It was likely a pink balloon once, welcoming a baby girl into existence. How could she think outside of her body, she thought, again, in circles: the body, it is me; the outside world, it defines my body; but the body, is it me? And: my art, it is the outside world I can define. But the writer, what was she? Once it was settled that they would go home together, neither one of them wanting to back down from the other’s dare to try out hooking up with a woman for the first time, it was a question of whose place. The studio, in Chinatown, was closer than either of their apartments. Surrounded by her own lack of art, the artist kissed the writer. Each woman had the crippling thought at many points throughout their one-night stand that it would be so much fun for someone else to watch this. The writer left when it started getting light out and hated herself for not getting an angle on the party other than it being so sexy that she felt compelled to try something totally new. She hadn’t really looked at this artist’s work when she was in front of it. She’d been too drunk and nervous. “She great,” said her friend, another writer who’d been at the party and saw them leave together. “Just write the piece about your impromptu studio visit.” Later that day, after a very short nap, the writer’s recap became the first real press on the artist, describing her drawings as “not just boundary breaking, but boundary re-establishing.” Maybe one day the artist would make portraits of the writer, in return for this writer making a portrait of her. That’s how it happened, said Sean, also an artist who’d seen the two talking that night. They helped each other out. The writer wrote her biggest article right after that, and so the party recap got spillover traffic from people trying to figure out who this brilliant woman was. The artist’s next body of work was those sun-faded couches, with the outlines of people on them, you know the ones. Those were great.
Within the Abrons Art Center classical theater setting, Leckey appeared, light in his step and with a microphone taped to his cheek like an appendage, soon to disappear behind a large computer screen. The artist quietly surfed for a few minutes through images of his apartment and studio in London. This space often appears in his work, such as in Made in Heaven (2004). In this case, the interior came out as jarred sequences, not unlike a computer game, with occasional images of Felix the Cat. Leckey introduced Felix, allegedly the character used for some of the earliest experiments in live broadcasting, as a figurine on a turntable and contained within a large mechanical apparatus. A version of this system had been previously shown at Le Consortium of Dijon for the exhibition “Industrial Light & Magic” (2007), which contributed to Leckey’s nomination for the Turner Prize in 2008. At the Abrons, Leckey-turned-scientist-lecturer-prestidigitator activated the clunky mechanism and, after a few attempts, Felix’s rotating image loomed above the audience.
Leckey then returned to his carefully prepared reading behind the lectern, punctuating it with sips of red wine. His talk defied a chronological development, mentioning that the word broadcast comes from agriculture, as in throwing seeds on the ground, not unlike the structure of his talk. Using a chalkboard as visual support, Leckey also presented the theory of “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, explaining that until recently, 20% of producers monopolized the market and public exposure, and how this has now been reversed with the Internet. In the new order, underground and marginal movements within the 80% have possibilities of survival, proliferation and visibility no longer controlled by an elite. These niche markets were illustrated with a YouTube video of a gluten muck moving with an uncanny life of its own over sound speakers, similar to Derrida’s reference to the chora of primal chaos.
Leckey also made a reference to the fabric of thought and desire, and how currently it was enough to imagine something to have it exist in some sort of virtual form. When he started a constant humming with members from the theater’s pit — slightly hypnotizing the audience — things took a mystical turn.
Leckey’s lecture-like performances are part of a larger trend of lecture-as-medium experimented with by artists such as Tris Vonna-Michell, Trisha Donnelly and Jimmy Raskin, and also present within Beatrice Gross’s series “Edifying” with Pablo Helguera. Recently, for Performa 09, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University’s “Art History with Benefits” lecture dissolved into a rendering of the George Michael song “Father Figure.” The lecture as performance seems to be an instrument of predilection for the presentation of new forms of analysis, of role playing, of deconstructing semblances of authority and academic power; a space enabling artists to take discourse within their own hands.
Michele Robecchi: How did “Cornucopia,” the exhibition at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco, come about?
Damien Hirst: I love the museum. There’s not really a big history of contemporary art in Monaco but I always wanted to show in the museum. I like what they’re trying to do. I guess it’s the Victorian idea of bringing the world to the people. It’s amazing to be able to put my things in here and carry on what Prince Albert the First said about art and science being the driving force of society. I hope that he would have loved what I have done here.
MR: How did you select works?
DH: Initially I wanted to do six works and then I came in and walked around and in about half an hour I thought, OK, how about putting something here, and what about one thing there, and maybe some paintings there; it all just came to me very quickly and by the end of the day I had like 60 pieces. It just grew.
MR: Your work definitely looks good in strong-charactered museums. Even at the Archaeological Museum in Naples it worked very well…
DH: Yeah, I never wanted to do museum shows because I thought they were for dead artists, but then I did the Naples show and I thought it looks cool. When you put two things together and they work in a great way, it’s like a mathematical sum. It’s good for me, it’s good for the museum and the work looks good. It brings everything to a new dimension.
MR: The show at the Wallace Collection in London last fall worked on a similar principle. Were you annoyed when most of the attention was placed not on the paintings themselves but on the fact that you made them?
DH: I kind of expected it, you know. What I have always done is this : when they write good things, I try to ignore it, so when they write bad things, I can ignore it. There’s a great quote by Andy Warhol: “You don’t read your reviews, you wave them.” It’s all about volume. I really think it doesn’t matter that much. The Wallace had the biggest number of people visiting for that exhibition than for any one before. If nobody had gone to the exhibition, I would have been very disappointed. If you had said to me, “Damien, your last exhibition, you spent a lot of money, you did a big show, and nobody came, how do you feel?” I would have felt fucking horrible. That is the problem. Criticism I had on those paintings was just crazy. It was as if late Picasso didn’t exist. Or Twombly, even. You don’t have to do very much to make a painting. You just go and do it. I think the real problem was to show them at the Wallace with the old-master paintings. They thought I was saying I was an old master.
MR: Do you go visit exhibitions a lot?
DH: Yeah, I love shows. I don’t see as much young art as I’d like to, really.
MR: How’s your collection coming up?
DH: It’s growing fast, I have to slow down a little bit. You got to be careful not to buy more than you can possibly exhibit. Someone told me that the National Gallery’s collection is either on display, restored or on loan. No storage. That’s a great way to do your collection.
MR: You bought back some of your early work from Charles Saatchi, right?
DH: Yeah. I like Saatchi. I go to dinner with him and stuff, but he hasn’t bought my work for a long time and he doesn’t have any more of it. It’s a strange time because I never kept my work or anything in the beginning, I always sold everything, I never thought about it. And then I had children. I became a father and I started to keep things for the future. I had never thought about the future, so I had a big hole in my collection. Then Saatchi approached me and said he wanted to sell all this stuff; I had just had an exhibition with White Cube so I had some money. It made sense to me to translate the money into early works. It’s crazy because I had a medicine cabinet, which I sold to Saatchi for 500 pounds, and I bought it back for 500,000. It’s kind of mad thinking to do that. But now it’s worth more. I put more money than anybody else was prepared to pay and a lot of collectors were really impressed by that: the confidence you show in your own work. So it wasn’t a business strategy but it actually worked very well in terms of a business strategy.
MR: Do you think you are in a stage of your career where you want to surprise yourself as much as the viewer?
DH: I think maybe I am in a stage where I realize that I can’t anymore. I don’t know. It’s not surprising myself, maybe escaping myself.
MR: Not being Damien Hirst?
DH: Yeah. For a long time I tried not to be Damien Hirst, whereas I think now I’ve just accepted it. There’s one thing I’ve always done, you know, whenever I have a fucking idea: I just put a box around it. There’s the table and the chairs — in a box; there’s the shark — in a box; the medicines — in the cabinet. For a while I tried not to do it but then in the end I thought, I like boxes. You were born in a box. You will die in a box. So forget it, I’m just going to do boxes.
MR: The skull [For the Love of God, 2007] was in a box. Does the idea for that piece go back to when you used to go to the Leeds flea market as a kid, looking for diamonds?
DH: Yeah, that kind of symbol of wealth. The idea of finding a diamond and the whole mystery of it. When you find them they’re like pieces of carbon that need to be polished up. They’re free, they’re not something that you can manufacture. I suppose if you don’t have any money you can actually dream of discovering a diamond, you can dig in the ground and find one. They have all these things. Diamonds are forever, aren’t they?
MR: It’s a very ambivalent work in this sense. The perpetuity of diamonds and the temporality of life.
DH: As an artist I always look for universal triggers. I don’t like to be for or against anything. I like to say something and deny it at the same time. There is duality in everything I do. Is the skull a celebration or is it something nihilistic? It’s both. Is it helpful that we worship money? I don’t know. What’s important, ultimately, is that it doesn’t matter how much money you get, you can’t cheat death. I love the idea that when you die you can’t take it with you. The diamond skull is like the ultimate statement of pitching wealth against death. It ultimately fails, but it’s still the celebration of something. But I’m an optimistic. To me it’s a light in the darkness.
MR: What is it that attracts you about death?
DH: It’s semantic. Anything that you can’t avoid, I want to confront in my work. And that’s probably the biggest of all these things.
MR: You also did an exhibition in New York recently called “End of an Era.”
DH: When I did the auction I used that to end a lot of series of works. So I stopped spot paintings, spin paintings, butterfly paintings, I stopped all that. So yes, I guess it’s the end of an era. But, you know, the end of an era is always the beginning of a new era. I’m in a period now where I’m trying a lot of things out, working on new projects.
MR: What do you think about the auction?
DH: Well, the galleries don’t like it because the buyers go direct, but you’re actually opening the market to a lot of new buyers, people that would never buy from a gallery. I think 50% were all new buyers.
MR: Many people were critical of the idea of you auctioning yourself. Like, you were in it only for the money.
DH: People always worry that money somehow tarnishes art, but I always thought it was disgusting that people like Van Gogh never made any money. It’s important to make sure that the art takes precedence over the money. Most people worry that somehow you lose your integrity. My business manager said to me a long time ago: “Always have to make sure that you use the money to chase the art and not the art to chase the money.” And I think that’s true; you have to look at that very carefully. I’m proud of all the things I’ve made, and yes, I’m interested in money in a big way. I think you need to respect money because there are so many people who don’t have any. I think money is like a key. It gives you access to things. It’s a closed door if you don’t have it. A lot of people underestimate the power of money because they think it’s bad. And for an artist, you just got to think on how it works. But money is not a good indication of value. There are very expensive things which are not good and there are things which are free that are amazing.
MR: Did the recent financial climate alarm you?
DH: I think this is better. This is normal. Before it was unreal, so I never took it that seriously. Art is a strange thing. I always thought in terms of currency, and art is probably the most powerful currency in the world. That’s why they use art on banknotes: to give things value you have to use art. A coin is like a sculpture. A piece of mold doesn’t have any value, but if you carve into it the head of state and make great art, people will buy it. I think of the spot paintings, or any new painting. If I’d put those in the street, where people walk past, how long were they going to stay there? Would somebody take them home? That’s a much better measure than how much they are worth. If you throw something in the street, then you go for lunch and when you get back it’s not there, that means that it’s good. And then if you work that out, you’d be surprised to see people paying lots and lots of money for it. The big thing is to make art that survives.
Following the death of Italian novelist, semiologist and philosopher Umberto Eco, we have taken questions posed by Eco’s eponymous theory of the “open work” as this issue’s point of departure. Eco’s collection of essays Opera Aperta [The Open Work] was published in 1962, when chance operations and indeterminacy became constitutive elements of the creative process. In today’s cultural climate, Eco’s thinking on “openness” remains relevant to art practice and criticism, providing “an urgent, irksome protest against the organization and management of all which lives,” as British artist Cally Spooner writes in this issue’s “Macro” essay. At a time when “openness” is valued in profit-driven creative forms, Spooner analyzes the “open organization” — collaborative models continually celebrated as principles of business creativity. Do creatives “not need to be told what to do”? What about their managers?
The newly introduced “Micro” essay, placed at the end of the issue, responds to “Macro” from the perspective of Italian art, earnestly bringing into the conversation the creative panorama from which this magazine was born. Here, Flash Art’s managing editor Michele D’Aurizio finds echoes of Eco’s theory of the “open work” in the phenomenon of Italian Radical Design. Envisioning “objects that assume shapes that become whatever the users want them to be,” Radical Design is probably the most successful but understudied embodiment of “openness” ever born on Italian soil.
The question of “openness” — and its valences — resonates throughout the entire issue, above all in our cover story devoted to American artist David Hammons. Conceived as a series of “open” questions, posed by a Wattis Institute research group under the guidance of Anthony Huberman, this feature riffs on an uncommonly raw, spiritual and politically charged art practice. Like a jazz musician, Hammons reinterprets art-making procedures in ways that result in unexpected, free-form resonances. But, as Huberman reminds us to ask: “What’s the relationship between improvisation and control? Isn’t it similar to that of a needle and thread?”
“Fragmentary writing is, ultimately, democratic writing. Each fragment enjoys an equal distinction. Even the most banal finds its exceptional reader. Each, in turn, has its hour of glory. Of course, each fragment could become a book. But the point is that it will not do so, for the ellipse is superior to the straight line.”
These are the terms in which French philosopher Jean Baudrillard described the peculiar fragmentary style he used to write Cool Memories — a series of autonomous aphorisms forming a continuous reflection from 1980 to 2000. His commentary is quite relevant to Mélanie Matranga’s polymorphous practice: Starting from a multitude of banal objects, characters and situations, she builds up fragmentary environments, shaky and precarious moments that have, precisely, the consistency of an evanescent memory. “There are no rigid structures, nothing stands up properly,” she says, describing her work in an interview with curators and castillo/corrales members Thomas Boutoux and Benjamin Thorel. “It’s rather like a ghostly presence, or the residues of moments. But it all remains quite impersonal, with nothing very singular. Very banal objects. Things become jaded. These moments have no solidity — as in a memory, when you’re alone with other people.”
Born in 1985 in Marseille, Matranga developed a practice that spans drawing, sculpture, video and environmental installations, yet is paradoxically unified by a certain sense of cacophony and jamming: objects, cables, thoughts and dialogues are muddled, and speak quietly, through mundane gestures — smoking a cigarette, listening to music — about the very timely notion of “being together.” The daily, the casual, and the way these can be fixed within a form, fascinate Matranga. Her sculptures often start from a familiar shape —a bed, a Gameboy, a couch, a biscuit — that she either rigidifies with vinylic glue (see the exhibition “Issues of Our Times” at castillo/corrales, Paris, and Artists Space, New York, 2014) or else softens by casting in silicon — a material she qualifies as “sloppy and revolting.”
The form, a relief or counter-relief, is fixed within its triviality and stands for all the symbols that it bares. Objects don’t hold any singularity; they are truly generic: the Noguchi lamps populating the underground space of Palais de Tokyo, Paris, during the fall of 2015, for Matranga’s solo show “反复 [FANFU],” have been edited so many times that they refer to everything and to nothing at the same time and thus can be interpreted in a far more emotional way. The music blasting through the same space is very popular, very recognizable, referencing a period of time as well as a generational taste, yet remains quite nonspecific. Matranga disseminates artifacts and sounds that production and circulation have worn out until their very essence becomes trivial.
These are turned into impersonal codes or signs one uses to define a certain positioning within society — a “personality.” “When you’re alone,” she reflects in her interview with Boutoux and Thorel, “what’s your personality? What, in fact, does this term mean? The propositions I make, all these extremely common objects and simple situations, are hugely amplified: They’re there to be experienced simply, almost in a loop, and in a really artificial way.” The cast objects become ghostly and residual presences, testaments to a past moment as well as the setting for a new moment to be lived. Indeed, Matranga’s works shouldn’t be experienced individually but as a whole, as an environment; they demarcate an actual living space, playing on notions of both domesticity and public commodity, oscillating between a glue-coated inhospitality and a soft, comforting intimacy. The exhibition becomes a public space within the public space — of the gallery, of the museum — a space of cohabitation, a communal mental area where each individual, like each object, tries to find the right position.
Big family mattresses are scattered across the floors, smoking areas are arranged within the spaces, while everyday objects are randomly disseminated. Matranga’s compositions bring up a certain notion of self-affirmation through objects that connote the intimacy of shelter.
The tension she draws between individuality and community actually rehabilitates the visitor as a subject, as an ethereal presence within a space where both instantaneity and memory are required to go through a psychological experience full of potential. She deconstructs the syntax of the exhibition structure in the same way she might compose a suave melody. Or is it polyphony gone wrong intentionally?
By amplifying the mundane, Matranga creates hyperartificial situations that replicate the contrived structures of a given society: How can one exist among others? How can one be “alone with other people,” as she says? By giving space to the intimate and allowing singularities to blossom, Matranga creates situations that are saturated with emotion. For “Club,” her first solo exhibition at Édouard Montassut, Paris, in 2016, she covered the walls of the gallery with large fabrics — sheets, pieces of linen and silk, wool — on which generic, adolescent messages of love were embroidered over occasionally goofy backgrounds: LOVE, NEED WANT, FEELING, ALWAYS YOURS, YOU AND ME, LOVE LOVE LOVE, YOU AGAIN AGAIN, EVER EVER NO STOP. Here again, the words are so threadbare they don’t mean anything anymore, and yet they manage to convey this sense of collective intimacy that runs throughout the artist’s practice. The words, the objects, the music, the messy arrangements, the watermarked scrapbook aesthetic seem to draw the viewer into a teenage world, a moment of transition when feelings are out of control and emotions are stuttered — like silicon or glue dripping from a sculpture — before attaining a more mature elocution.
Matranga’s physical arrangements and visual compositions can often be seen as a mirror for the mind. This is, for example, how she describes Complexe ou Compliqué (2014), the installation of wires and cables entangled under a carpet that she showed in Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris, as well as at Artists Space, New York: “It was a way to create more organic spaces, which imitate sentiments or sensations in a rather exaggerated and sometimes even quite simplistic way. And then, it had an extremely loquacious side to it: For me, these cables and these dripping materials were just like logorrhea or chatter. Making these pieces meant using lots of words to say something simple, going via a million roundabout routes to arrive at a single point.For me, that’s what language typically is.”
The talkative forms that she gives space to in her installations find their counterpart in her video work as self-absorbed, chatty characters who seem, indeed, to be alone while being with others. Matranga’s films are more about narration than about any kind of formal speculation. She mixes scripted fiction with improvisation, giving her productions an ambiguous sense of intentionality and genre. Speech is omnipresent, yet its content doesn’t really matter. The succession of words is not important in itself, and the content is interesting only in its capacity to define the act of speaking, the postures, the bodies and their movements, the silences and the pauses. The words are interesting when they stop. Matranga revisits and challenges the conventions of oral exchange by fostering an intransitive speech. This is pretty clear in the project she realized on the occasion of her Frieze Artist Award commission: From A to B through E (2014) is a short web series about a young couple, Jeanne and Bastien, who discuss “freedom, success and the proper functioning of a couple” while a cafe set is built around them, suggesting a parallel logic of physical/emotional construction. The overall arc and direction swings between a constructed dialogue à la Eric Rohmer — characters entangled in their own problems, words scrambling the action’s progression — and a very contemporary kind of reality-show speak: empty, flat, self-centered. From the first minutes, Jeanne, the main character, interrupts her monologue with a very significant statement: “I was talking for ten minutes about something important to me and you were just not listening to me? Are you fucking kidding me?” To enhance their simultaneous but parallel conversations, the characters don’t even speak the same language; Jeanne speaks English while Bastien answers in French.
Sometimes he even looks at himself in the mirror while addressing his interlocutor. Matranga plays with crossed gazes to convey visual cross-purposes; characters rarely look at the person who is talking to them or listen to the person they’re looking at. This is very obvious in FANFU (2015), a video produced on the occasion of the eponymous show at the Palais de Tokyo. “The strange thing is that the actors focused only on their own character,” said Matranga in the interview that accompanied the show. “I thought this worked very well, because it was all about people who don’t listen to each other, who are really self-centered.”
There is a certain idea of permeability in Matranga’s practice: Her perception of movie production contaminates the way she produces pieces that themselves contaminate the occupation of a given space and the work at the studio. “The way I gather people to work with me is quite precise and focused,” she says. “What interests me is the way ideas circulate in the studio and fit into the production.” Although she clearly carries on a tradition of psycho-domestic sculpture in the vein of Heidi Bucher or Rachel Whiteread, or even Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Matranga brings into the game a very generational way of being and working together, always in polarity with the other: a friend, a collaborator, a provider, an actor that will create a context in which tension and complicity coexist. Her multifaceted approach to the making of the works is truly timely and yet very peculiar in its execution. “At the studio there are always lots of people giving their opinion all the time. I really like that cacophony.” In an essay about Rohmer commissioned for the catalogue of Matranga’s “FANFU” exhibition, movie critic Julien Mahon writes: “Rohmer’s heroes and heroines are thwarted shy people, desperately trying to conceal their handicap by drowning themselves in words.” Matranga herself is quite Rohmerian in that sense: Her grace peeks through her extreme timidity, which she drowns in continuous flows of objects, words, music — as if she were too humble to let her voice appear clearly. “I have no intention of saying anything about the world,” she says in typical Matranga form. “I don’t try to give a precise description of our current living and working existences.” And yet she does, in a nimble and poetic way.
“Abstract” and “New” are two adjectives in this exhibition’s title that became sources of controversy by English critics, who accused the show of not being truly “abstract” — due to the figurative character of many of the works — and not being “new” — as some of the 33 artists had already exhibited in solo or group shows involving the Saatchi Gallery, an example being “USA Today” at the Royal Academy (2006).
The adjective “new” has often been used in Saatchi exhibitions, almost to the point of creating a brand. Sometimes it means “new work,” and sometimes — with an even more circumscribed reference — it means “new for London.” The exhibition’s display of more than one hundred works took over all the Gallery’s thirteen rooms, following no set logic or convention, instead constituting an example of how one might approach many aesthetic and stylistic solutions using divergence and affinity to create a meaningful and articulated whole. “New” in this case is an attempt to show an artistic state of being — to create opportunities for reflection on a situation that actually is already present within the circuit of the international art scene.
Uninhibited freedom and undiscriminating eclecticism outline a panorama, a system of variants that describes American and European art of the ’80s and ’90s: Neo-Geo, Neo-Surrealism, Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Pop, underground art and graffiti art among others, while the cultural patterns, interpretive and mercantile, are those implemented by Neo-Geo: a repechage that we credit to post-modernity. There is the dominant impression that a common concern of artists during that period was that of choosing orientations and references from which to draw: a mix of minimal, Pop, Op, and other forms. The artist confronts, invokes and redefines past conventions.
One of the works on view, Aaron Young’s performance-painting Greeting Card 10a (2007) — inspired by Pollock’s dripping and informed by the automated gestures of Surrealism as revisited by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg — evokes Harold Rosenberg’s definition of the canvas as “an arena in which to act rather than to represent.” In a video performance, Young has motorcyclists fly their vehicles in the dark over newly painted panels covering a layer of florescent color. The result is a vivid painting; the tangle of lines does not recall the frenetic tangle of a metropolis but rather conveys the effect of numerous digital combinations.
But it is Peter Coffin’s Untitled (Spiral Staircase) (2007) — a sculpture connected in continuous spiral rotations that forms a large circular structure installed on the wall and suggesting a circular, infinite motion — that clarifies the meaning of abstraction in American art: the loss of the object’s functionality and the distortion of the image. Spiral Staircase is also a metaphor for the exhibition, turning around and around, the art repeating itself with increased velocity until it disappears, becoming abstract. A statement made by Peter Halley is relevant: “In the late 20th century, reality became more and more abstract and thus abstract painting became a figuration of the reality.”