New York

Rudolf Stingel

Daniel Newburg Gallery

Rudolf Stingel takes potshots at Minimalism, using the strategies of its historical sidekick, Conceptualism, to point out its pretenses. Creating works that are conspicuously unmarketable and unesthetic, if not just plain ugly, Stingel comments humorously on a movement that produced some of the smuggest, most boring work in the history of art.

Among Stingel’s past offerings is a booklet with a crossing-guard orange cover that provides instructions on how to make a Minimalist painting. Mimicking the grayed-out photographs of how-to manuals with their enumerated items (electric mixer, compressed air gun, pure horsehair paintbrush, etc.) and step-by step commands reproduced in six languages (five Western and one Asian), the artist details, in a deadpan manner, the procedure for creating a monochrome painting. Stingel’s mechanistic model both emulates and parodies the Minimalists’ production-line mentality, reducing the artist to a pair of well-manicured, highly photogenic hands deftly executing the printed instructions.

In this show, bright orange shag carpeting covers the floor of the exhibition space proper and snakes down corridors into the reception area and back office. The flaming orange is a slap in the face to the art world’s obsessively good taste, blanketing the traditional polished hardwood floor with refreshing insouciance. The carpet also imbues the space with the comfort of home, something felt more directly in Stingel’s recent installation in a group show at the HOME for Contemporary Theater and Art. There the same orange carpeting, framed by silver moldings (generated by the same process detailed in the painting guide), underlay Ken Lum’s claustrophobic grouping of modular couches and side tables. Stingel’s loud-hued carpeting and industrial-looking moldings are no more appropriate in a home than in an art gallery, and at least part of the impact of his work has to do with the shock value of such blatant transgressions of decorum.

Today, most artists remining the seemingly sterile Minimalist field attempt to insert political content into a style that sought to transcend such mundane aspects of existence. Stingel’s concern, which he evokes with a humorous and blessedly light touch, is, rather, how the marketing snares developed to furnish American homes and offices with the latest consumer products inevitably invaded the art world and carried off its least accessible and most sacrosanct bounty.

Lois Nesbitt