Colin Gardner

  • Boskovich and I

    IN HIS WELL-KNOWN PARABLE “Borges and I,” Jorge Luis Borges drove a linguistic wedge between Borges the writer and Borges the individual, creating, in effect, two Borges. “I live, let myself go on living,” he wrote, “so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me.” This dislocation between the ego and the self expressed in the art object, and so between the ego and the art object itself, is of a type common in post-Structural thought, for example in the split between signifier and signified. Predictably, its popularity with many conceptual artists has taken on a

  • “CalArts: Skeptical Belief(s)”

    Founded by Walt Disney in the early 1960s from the merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Chouinard Art Institute, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has become one of the most influential centers of esthetic discourse in the United States. Through its close alignment with Conceptualism and Post-Structural inquiry—particularly under the aegis of faculty luminaries such as Michael Asher, Allan Kaprow, John Baldessari, and Doug Huebler—the school has produced a generation of artists to whom issues of textuality, appropriation, and institutional reification are less ideological

  • Boyle Family

    Based in Greenwich, England, Boyle Family consists of Mark Boyle, Joan Hills, and their children, Sebastian and Georgia Boyle. Working as a collective unit (or “four feuding dictators,” as Sebastian puts it), the Boyles have spent the last 20 years working on a still continuing series called Journey to the Surface of the Earth. It began in August 1968 when the Boyles had a blindfolded group of family and friends throw darts at a large world map; by this method, they selected 1,000 locations randomly scattered all over the world. Since then, the Boyles have been systematically visiting as many

  • Winston Newport

    The name Winston Newport represents Los Angeles artist Eric Magnuson’s “Late Modernist” persona. It is also a semiotic construct that he uses to signify a specific methodological practice of co-optation. With its reference to cigarette brand names and Hollywood-style packaging, the name suggests a large Modernist corporation that produces and markets art objects for mass consumption. The objective is to cement Newport and Modernism as firmly together as Jeff Koons and Nike sportswear or Daniel Buren and vertical stripes. The irony, of course, is that no one has heard of Newport, far less “his”

  • Jeffery Vallance

    Wryly entitled “Icelandic Women and the King of Tonga,” Jeffrey Vallance's latest exhibition explored two very different cultures through the mythic power of their chief icons: Tonga's avuncular, 462-pound King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, and Iceland's beautiful, flaxen-haired women. Vallance followed his usual procedure of visiting the distant island communities and, through prearranged audiences with the local heads of state and collaborations with native craftsmen, combining and confusing the roles of artist, ambassador, sociologist, and travel correspondent to produce work that resembles a

  • Stephen Prina and Christopher Williams

    Collectively entitled “The Construction and Maintenance of Our Enemies,” this collaboration between Stephen Prina and Christopher Williams took the form of 13 black-and-white photographs of plant specimens at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, all from 1986. At first glance, these carefully composed depictions of roses, cacti, and other, more exotic plants appeared to be an ironic demystification of the conventions of landscape photography—especially those established by such hallowed Modernists as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams—through the direct simulation of historical

  • Gregory Mahoney

    At first glance, Gregory Mahoney’s “paintings” appear to draw upon the reductive tenets of hard-edge abstractionists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Leon Polk Smith. Viewed collectively, their impact seems hermetically formal, exploring the basic parameters of the picture plane (shape, edge, surface frontality) as well as the interplay of positive and negative space within the gallery environment as a whole.

    On closer examination however, the work discloses references to the natural landscape, particularly the desert, mountains, and ocean of Southern California. Mathematical geometry thus acts as an

  • David French

    David French’s paintings are steeped in the antitenets of post-Structural theory, specifically the deconstructive strategy of différance. Unlike those artists who slavishly reduce painting to a series of rhetorical simulacra, French demonstrates a much more playful intellect, owing more to Jacques Derrida’s linguistically slippery and semantically absurdest approach to philosophy than to the preordained dogma of post-Modernist gurus such as Jean Baudrillard. As a result, French’s witty image/text combinations attempt to mystify as much as clarify, fictionalize as well as rationalize. By deliberately

  • James Morris

    James Morris calls his paintings “American History Sublime,” advocating what he calls a “cynically optimistic” view in which doubt and reason grapple together, with at least some hope of transcendence. Morris’ early combinations of found images and narrative text were heavily influenced by the Art & Language group. However, these initial experiments quickly evolved during the mid ’80s into more ambiguous multiple-panel formats in which contradictory systems of visual language played out a form of stalemate, an uneasy duality between the idea of the sublime and the inevitable elusiveness of its

  • Lienhard von Monkiewitsch

    In this post-Conceptual era, when most seemingly moribund painting justifies itself by playing the role of elegy for a “dead” Modernism, many artists have resorted to resurrecting and revising esthetic tenets from the past as a catalyst for propagating the “continued progress” of art itself. As a result, much post-Modernist pluralism, with its connotation of repairing the mystifications wrought by Modernism, is defined by the very same dubious ideology of the progressive avant-garde that it purports to deconstruct. Such contradictions are clearly born of a creative and ideological impasse: the

  • Jill Giegerich

    Like Marcel Proust and his madeleine, Jill Giegerich dips into the historical past, mining the mythology of Modernism so that its outward traces become a series of recalled memories. In Giegerich’s case, the esthetic sources are Cubism and Constructivism, reified orthodoxies that she reworks and reevaluates through a series of wall reliefs that the artist calls “constructions.” By carefully avoiding the loaded historical rhetoric usually associated with painting or sculpture, Giegerich is able to drain the vocabulary of artists such as El Lissitzky, Vladimir Tatlin, and Alexander Rodchenko of

  • Peter Shelton

    Peter Shelton is usually known for his installations of anthropomorphic, industrial forms, in which cast-metal and fiberglass signifiers (stunted body parts, empty, shell-like garments, biomorphic fragments) set up complex conceptual, figurative, and spatial relationships. Whether they are suspended from the ceiling or cantilevered from the wall, Shelton is careful to relate each object directly to the viewer, so that sculpture becomes a physical, external metaphor for human essences. ideas, and perceptions. More recently. Shelton has started to incorporate overtly architectural elements, using

  • Matt Mullican

    Matt Mullican’s work resembles a semiological catalogue of the entire spectrum of knowledge. Through the use of a wide variety of materials and techniques, such as rubbings, stained glass, etched granite, banners, and posters, as well as a highly personal vocabulary of signs and symbols, Mullican is able to chart a uniquely systematic cosmology, whereby such metaphysical intangibles as life, death, fate, God, and hell are reduced to a form of archetypal visual language. Symbols are used self-reflexively, so that the individual can establish a symbiotic relationship with the broader cosmic

  • Jene Highstein

    Like many of the post-Minimalist sculptors who emerged in the early ’70s, Jene Highstein has produced work that is notable for its enigmatic, hybrid qualities. Although clearly influenced by Minimalism’s reductive formal purity, with its focus on geometry and industrial materials, Highstein eschews its somewhat narrow concentration on ideas and systems in favor of a more organic, intuitive approach, marking in essence a shift from the primary to the primal. As Highstein himself puts it, “The content of my work is not so much nature abstracted, but form which is evolved in relation to nature and

  • Tim Ebner

    Tim Ebner is concerned with the image and process of abstract painting. Until recently, the focus of this investigation was the brushstroke itself, which Ebner exploited both as a unique, emotive gesture and as a premeditated, mechanical simulation. What appeared a purely intuitive sweep of the brush was in fact painstakingly rendered, using a wax-resist method, so that process contradicted representational signification. Thus Ebner not only drained the expressive mark of its unique automatism but, through an almost fetishistic concern for finish and surface, also underscored the medium’s

  • Mitchell Syrop

    Mitchell Syrop likes to refer to himself as “an industrial folk artist.” Combining text and commercial photographic imagery, Syrop exploits the language and marketing techniques of Madison Avenue in order to deconstruct the ideology of “received” information. His usual strategy is to juxtapose an appropriated image with a clichéd slogan or witty pun, so that the imperative voice of official language becomes an agency for semantic closure, dictating how the total “package” should and must be read.

    In the past, Syrop has walked a thin line between propagating and debunking such reifying mechanisms.

  • Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz

    Since 1973, Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz have divided their time between West Berlin and the small town of Hope, Idaho. This geographical marriage of extremely diverse cultures corresponds with the husband-and-wife team’s artistic collaboration, creating a contextual and personal dialectic of considerable complexity and interest. Edward is well known for his large-scale environmental tableaux, in particular the infamous Roxy’s, 1961, and The Back Seat Dodge—’38, 1962–64, which fused hard-hitting social comment with almost Dadaist black humor. Nancy, on the other hand, is a photographer and

  • John Baldessari

    John Baldessari’s work, like the ideology of post-Modernism itself, has been closely linked to post-Structuralist philosophy. Baldessari, like many of the conceptual clones he has helped spawn, dutifully questions the language of representation and lays bare the concealed structures of signification that constitute the received information of the popular media.

    Over the past ten years, this strategy has evolved into a familiar, in many cases clichéd, statement of the obvious. In lesser hands, the paean to the open text—with its dangling signifiers, deconstructed rhetoric, and debunking of the

  • Nancy Reese

    Until recently, Nancy Reese was best known as Ed Ruscha’s collaborator, the artist who painted many of the sublime backdrops to Ruscha’s pithy superimposed texts. Now Reese has emerged, literally and figuratively, from Ruscha’s shadow with a series of eight works that stake her claim as a painter of brilliant technique and visual bravado, but muddled concept.

    Reese’s initial gambit appears to center upon an almost seamless fusion of traditional landscape and still life genres, a pushing of received information to its limit, all the better to deconstruct its rhetorical fallacies. Spectacular sunlit

  • George Herms

    George Herms has explored many different media over the years—painting, sculpture, collage, performance, photography, and poetry—but he is perhaps best known for his assemblages. Like the Surrealist object poets (particularly André Breton), Herms is able to combine elements of strict formalism, appropriated language, and random placement to create works that appear self-contained, even inevitable, yet also part of a broader program that is completely personal and often quite illogical. His inventive recycling of discarded junk makes one initially think of artists such as Ed Kienholz and Joseph