Untitled

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Francesca Pia, Zurich

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I have 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.”
    Wade Guyton, 2006

    As one of the singular forces of digital art entering into the contemporary world, Wade Guyton’s unmistakable mark on the face of visual art continues to grow. In what has become an epochal phenomenon, the likes of which only a handful of painters have been able to lay claim, Guyton’s painterly method has changed the way that we perceive the legitimately artistic utilization of the canvas. To envision the existence of the present lot in 1995 would have been impossible—not only for its technological unfeasibility, but also for its redefinition of art itself. Therefore, with canvases such as Untitled, 2006 as his weapons, Wade Guyton has broadened the horizons of our understanding and helped us to envision a world where technology and vision can coexist.

    In the space of a mere thirty square feet, Guyton employs the medium of a new age: ink from an Epson printer, his instrument of choice. In blowing up the normally miniscule symbols of pictures, language and numbers, Guyton’s pieced-together work forms a new type of expressionist gesture, launching semiotic code into a new realm—that of the purely visual. In only pure black ink, Guyton’s canvas possesses a binary scheme of color, where the areas filled in by the jet paint of the printer represent presence versus the absence of the blank areas. At top, a perfect black bar caps Guyton’s symphony of shape and shadow, resting atop two rectangular halves in constant spatial combat, each warring against the other for domination of the space upon the canvas. Carved into each half are empty circles, making the sides reminiscent of a colorless alpine cheese, lending a humorous undertone to Guyton’s otherwise stoic piece.

    This concept of modern visual language—that which stems from the digital symbols that we gaze upon for hours everyday on our many digital screens, has its roots in Guyton’s desire to negate the common uses of motif and symbol, much in the way that Christopher Wool chose to decontextualize decorative themes in the 1980s. As Guyton himself testifies, “When I started to be interested in making art, all the artists I was interested in were involved with the manipulation of language or the malleability of the categories of art. There was a freedom in this way of thinking. There was a space where objects could be speculative.” (S. Rothkopf, Wade Guyton: OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 11)

    Success in achieving this particular brand of objectivity has led Guyton’s work to be lauded the world over, not only for his willingness to redefine the boundaries of the painting medium, but also because of his accessibility as an artistic mind. Under the guise of a radical modern artist, Guyton in fact follows the path of a staunchly studious one, whose dire care for his practice has led him to a magnificent, yet logical conclusion. While shattering established norms, he is also “a traditionalist who breaks the mold but pieces it back together in a different configuration.”(R. Smith, 'Dots, Stripes, Scans', New York Times, 4 October 2012)

    Untitled’s boldness in medium conjures the work of Lucio Fontana, specifically in Concetto Speziale, 1960, in which he chooses to employ a similar binary code of white circles and black backgrounds. In addition, Fontana’s use of a three-dimensional canvas (slicing through to create his impressions) is equally adventurous to Guyton’s, who prefers instead to build his binary code atop the canvas’s surface. This fascinating border between painting and sculpture (and, in Guyton’s work, photography) raises the question of categorization, as objects tend to blur the lines between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality. Guyton’s “growing involvement with the dialogic rapport between sculpture and photography, the reciprocities and gaps between how spaces and objects are recorded in two dimensions and experienced in three.” (S. Rothkopf, Wade Guyton: OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 13)

    But perhaps the most apt comparison inherent to Untitled, 2006 would be to the great monochromists of the Twentieth Century. Agnes Martin, in White Flower, 1960, employed a similar surface to Guyton’s Untitled, 2006. Simultaneously littered with texture while remaining decoratively neutral, her stoic approach closely resembles Guyton’s own, the both of them aiming at marvelously intellectual depths in their pictorial beauty. In addition, Ellsworth Kelly’s early work, especially Running White, 1959, finds him in the same zone of Guyton’s exploration of visual motifs. Running White, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, is one of the most powerful forbears to Untitled, 2006, as we discover the ancestry of Guyton’s work with digital printing in the large scale work of Kelly.

    Few painters in the digital age have been able to interpret the unique difficulties of technology as new outlets for expression, yet Wade Guyton has done so seemingly without effort. As his work continues to build upon his current body of revolutionary paintings, we can only hope to expect more work on the scale of Untitled, 2006: a perfect fusion of past and present.

37

Untitled

2006
Epson Ultrachrome inkjet on linen
73 1/8 x 57 1/8 in. (185.7 x 145.1 cm)

Estimate
$900,000 - 1,200,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm