Carey Young

Ibid Gallery | London

The three large board-mounted ink-jet prints—text panels, really—that make up Carey Young’s “Disclaimer” series, 2004, openly claim their heritage in Conceptual art: Unadorned, visually nondescript presentations of statements with reflexive content of a possibly paradoxical sort, one could easily trace these works’ lineage to textbook precursors of the ’60s such as John Baldessari’s Everything Is Purged from This Painting but Art; No Ideas Have Entered This Work, 1966–68, and Mel Ramsden’s Guaranteed Painting, 1967–68.

Unlike much other current neo-Conceptualist work, however, Young’s seems relatively unconcerned with calling attention to its historical distance from such sources by engaging in overt (and possibly nostalgic) commentary on it. Perhaps surpris- ingly, her more straightforward endeavor to continue the Conceptualist project of critically examining art as both idea and institution draws strength from this lack of manifest art-historical knowingness. Eschewing winks to insiders, her work just gets down to unfinished business.

Young’s three disclaimers, developed in collaboration with Massimo Sterpi, a specialist in intellectual-property and art law, invert the “guarantees” offered by Baldessari and Ramsden (for that is what their categorical assertions about what has been excluded from the work amount to). By contrast—but like another contemporary work in this genre, Declaration of Intent (Disclaimer), 1999, by Canadian artist Ron Terada—Young’s disclaimers enumerate all that is uncertain about an artwork. Disclaimer: Ontology even goes so far as to state THE ARTIST DOES NOT REPRESENT THIS TO BE A WORK OF ART. This is evasive almost to the point of hypocrisy, of course, when “this” is being presented by an art gallery as the work of an artist, yet its logic is superb: In contradiction to the insistence of the first-generation Conceptualists (all progeny of Rauschenberg’s portrait of Iris Clert, 1961) on the artist’s intention, in the end it is always others who must take responsibility for the designation of an object as an artwork. And, so, ANY REPRESENTATION OR CLAIM THAT THIS IS A WORK OF ART IS THE EXCLUSIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PERSON WHO ASSERTS IT.

Disclaimer: Access, on the other hand, concedes its status as art, but acknowledges that its aesthetic qualities, or rather “access” to them, MAY BE INTERRUPTED, RESTRICTED OR DELAYED so that NO WARRANTY OR GUARANTEE CAN BE OFFERED THAT SUBSEQUENT VIEWING OF THIS PIECE WILL GENERATE IDENTICAL OR SIMILAR EMOTIONS, REACTIONS OR COMMENTS. And given that a thing may not necessarily be art, or that, if it is, its character as such may not be accessible, the bottom line is what we learn from Disclaimer: Value—that the thing may have no value in the art market, and that if it does have any, this value may not be FREE FROM INFLUENCE BY HYPE, SPECULATION, ADVERTISEMENT OR ANY OTHER PHENOMENON NOT RELATED TO ARTISTIC CONTENT. A related video, Terms and Conditions, 2004, shows a young woman in a business suit standing amid a green and pleasant landscape talking about the “site” in phrases evidently lifted from disclaimers for websites. Leaning heavily and at length on this simple play on the word “site,” the video soon wears out its welcome. But the leaner, more concise ironies of the three printed works keep echoing insidiously.

Barry Schwabsky