Wade Guyton - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • At first glance Wade Guyton’s monumental Untitled, 2013, reads like a minimalist, abstract work from the 1960s: a broad, monochromatic white canvas is capped by a band of indigo across the uppermost edge. While the work might at first seem like the product of Barnett Newman or Carmen Herrera, it is in fact one of Guyton’s “printer paintings,” the artist’s signature and enduring body of work created with Epson inkjet printers. Moving in closer to Untitled, what should be a simple printing task appears to have been botched: uneven smudges of blue drag across the top of the composition with varying saturation. Narrower bands of indigo on the left are countered by a wider, more homogenous stripe on the right, pierced by organically shaped deposits of heavy ink in a balance of harmony and dischord.


    Barnett Newman, Shimmer Bright, 1968, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 Barnett Newman Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Guyton began the series in 2002 when he turned to printers as tools to investigate the traditional bounds of painting. Guyton initially explored digital forms in graduate school, creating compositions with standard shapes in word processing software. This simple digital composition-making evolved into his “printer drawings” on paper and his later “printer paintings” on canvas. To create the work, Guyton manipulates his canvas by folding, jamming and pulling it through the inkjet printer. The resulting sputters, skips and streaks are an homage to chance, spontaneity and error, reflecting equally the artist’s intent and the unexpected failures of the machine.


    “It seems that the history of modern or contemporary art as we know it is itself a history of art defining its contours. So if my work makes any contribution to that its merely an introduction of certain technology and simply maintaining a tradition of material or contextual self-awareness.”
    —Wade Guyton

     In his own words, Guyton is interested in the way “artworks work against the machine … [and] how the printer can’t handle such simple gestures” as printing basic shapes or colors.i While Guyton explores the printer’s potential flaws and questions the role of the artist’s hand, his work is not a critique of the machine. Rather, Guyton exploits the ways in which printing can go awry to break down the mechanical properties of the ostensibly seamless print. Untitled lays bare the linear strokes of the print head: we see how ink is emitted in repeated, redoubling motions through the striated final image.


    Transforming the mundane printing process into a melodic work, Untitled references styles from art history while working firmly within his post-Conceptual generation. Modifying his predecessors in the developing home computer age, Guyton subverts the Hard-edge painting of Newman and Ellsworth Kelly with small moments across the canvas that seem lifted from the Color Field works of Helen Frankenthaler and the action paintings of Jackson Pollock. In Untitled, the evenly distributed dentils on the upper left of the work resemble the more rigid forms of the former, while the irregular smudges resemble the forms of the latter. The result is a unique work that is distinctly of its time, revealing the metaphoric and literal push and pull of the artist’s hand and the unique signature of the machine.



    i Wade Guyton in Guyton/Walker: The Failever of Judgment, exh. cat., Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, 2005, p. 49

    • Provenance

      Petzel Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated "Wade Guyton 2013" on the overlap
Epson UltraChrome K3 inkjet on linen
128 x 108 in. (325.1 x 274.3 cm)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023