Wade Guyton - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Petzel Gallery, New York
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Kunsthalle Zurich, Wade Guyton, Seth Price, Josh Smith, Kelley Walker, April 8 - May 28, 2006
    San Juan, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, En foco: el coleccionismo en Puerto Rico, April 2007

  • Literature

    S. Rothkopf, Wade Guyton OS, New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art, 2012, p. 100, fig. 31a (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Fire is always captivating... 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..." Wade Guyton, 2012

    Wade Guyton’s inkjet on linen mechanisms are not products of technology, but rather, products of process itself. Whether by accident or design, Guyton’s canvases display a unique vulnerability to the printing errors from which they are derived: scales are slightly off-tilt, paper-like linen is purposely jammed, and cartridge toners imprint a stuttered, smudged, and diverged hue. Every snag and hitch is encouraged, recorded, and ultimately re-worked to meet the needs of the artist’s process. Guyton notes, “This is a recording process as much as a production process. And I have to live with it, smears and all.” (W. Guyton, quoted in C. Vogel, “Painting, Rebooted," The New York Times, September 27, 2012).

    Red-hot flames dance enticingly beneath the strikingly-imposed “U” in Wade Guyton's Untitled from 2006. Bold and alluring, this work is a mesmerizing example of the fire paintings that signaled an important turning point in the artist's radical engagement with computer printing technology. Having experimented throughout the early 2000s with printing computer-generated graphic motifs onto ready-made images torn from books, it was not until 2005, that Guyton began to explore the potential of the inkjet medium as a tool for painting. Reveling in the unpredictable glitches, smudges, smears and rivulets that resulted from feeding primed canvas through an Epson printer, Guyton's fire paintings were among the first products of this revolutionary method. Combining the seductive invocations of fire with his signature use of abstract lettering, these works played a critical role in the development of an oeuvre that has come to represent one of the twenty-first century's most searing inquiries into the relationship between art and technology. In their ability to highlight the imperfections, and creative potential, latent in mechanical production, the fire paintings speak directly to issues surrounding image-making in the digital age.

    Initially interested in the role of the found object and the transposition of three-dimensional life into a two-dimensional representation, Guyton’s earliest works capture his “…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) From this fundamental understanding of the mutability of the artistic process and the conversant nature of seemingly disparate artistic methodologies, Guyton developed a profound understanding of the object not as subject but as medium; the conceptual and practical elements of the artistic process could combine in a manufactured yet theoretically challenging composition. As the artist notes, “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.” (W. Guyton quoted in S. Rothkopf, Wade Guyton: OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 11)

    The flame motif that defines the fire paintings stems from the artist’s earlier paper printing phase, and was originally torn from an old book cover. Guyton’s revival of this image stems from his desire to inject an element of pictorial content back into his increasingly abstract practice. Combined with the hazy drippings and blurred effects of his new printing method, the resulting paintings brought the flames to life in ways unimagined by the artist. Guyton counteracts this figurative embodiment with his deliberately abstract lettering. In contrast to his use of the letter “X”, which has frequently been interpreted in symbolic terms, the letter “U” “seemed sufficiently abstract… It felt like it could slip out of being a letter.” (W. Guyton, quoted in interview with D. De Salvo, in Wade Guyton OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 204). This deliberate evasion of meaning foregrounds the visual quality of the letter, which appears to glow and combust beneath the red-hot flames.

    Guyton's harnessing of a medium that ostensibly dispensed with the artist's hand was, in part, a product of his own anxieties regarding image-making in the contemporary world. Faced with both the internet's continual proliferation of digital images, as well as the vast art-historical legacy that preceded him, Guyton was attracted to a method in which artistic effect was partially determined through the click of a mouse. Yet, in the unforeseen potential of the printer to reinvent one of the most time-honored artistic media—namely, painting—Guyton's works have come to occupy an important position within the artistic canon that daunted him in his early years. This canon includes the great exponents of contemporary printing techniques from Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool to those artists who have toiled to retain the visual impact of abstraction devoid of the artist's hand such as the contemporary master Ellsworth Kelly and of course even those proponents of the ready-made image, including the "Pictures Generation" artists such as Sherrie Levine, Barbara Kruger etc. Each of these artist has continued to expound upon a tradition originally established by the progenitors of the new contemporary art mode – those artistic heavyweights Marcel Duchamp and Yves Klein. Each of these two clearly set the trajectory for the art of the 20th and 21st centuries as an art not simply of paint on canvas, carved stone, or cast metal but one without bounds of material or concept.

    The ability for a found object to be reconsidered and repositioned as an art object was indeed one of the most transformative and shocking developments within the canon of western art. Where Duchamp established the conceit of turning ordinary items into works of art by reframing them as such, Klein enabled another radical new art system, one which was still created and not found but which was never physically touched by the artist’s hand. Fittingly in relation to Guyton’s Untitled, Klein’s most successful forays into making art in which the artist’s hand was negated were a series of “paintings” in which he used a flame-thrower to physically scorch and transform the canvas. Widely recognized alongside Jackson Pollock and Lucio Fontana, Klein was one of the leading artists of the 1950s and early '60s, responsible for enlarging the traditional field of painting into the wider realms of performance and conceptual art. Guyton and his printed painting masterpieces such as the current work assume this historical mantle and bring it full force into the 21st century.

    The subtle distinction between sensual surface touch of the artist’s hand and the saturated, inhuman and pre-formed motifs manufactured by technology is nowhere more apparent – and more controversial – than in Guyton’s inkjet pictures. Guyton’s employment of seemingly mundane graphics and text as “painterly” devices “…articulated a disjunction between the picture, the page, and the mark.” (Wade Guyton: OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 16) Untitled, 2006, is an impressive monument to the minimal and the conceptual – and an undeniably elegant manifestation of art historical tradition and contemporary innovation. Reinvigorating the canvas and expanding the traditional boundaries of conceptual painting, Guyton’s inkjet works express a new approach to modernity. As Scott Rothkopf has written, "[Guyton] improbably endows these mechanical pictures with a lived sense of his struggle to bring an image from the screen onto the canvas or simply to bring an image into being at all...[T]he interaction between the digital and the manual, the pictorial and the literal, have always been at the heart of Guyton's practice and its deeply rooted connection to the ways in which we haltingly navigate the visual and technological barrage of our time." (S. Rothkopf, "Operating System. I. From Image to Object," in Wade Guyton OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 25)



Epson Ultrachrome inkjet on linen
90 x 53 (228.6 x 134.6)

$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $4,645,000

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm