Ceal Foyer

Seen first from the street through the gallery’s large front window, Genuine Reduction, 2006, carries out a subtle subversion. A small readymade sign with white letters against a red background, the piece bears a title that coincides precisely with its printed words, which motivates a play on its context. Joining art gallery facade to department store display window, the sign announces a double sale. But since there’s nothing else to advertise in the large, otherwise bare gallery, the work markets only its own reduction, which the artist has literalized by chopping off the final s at the end of the second word.

Floyer’s is an art of humble gestures that intervene in everyday perceptual experience, gingerly altering appearance to give pause—that is, if the viewer takes notice. The risk with such slight maneuvers, delivered with deadpan expression, is that they won’t. With minimal means, Floyer’s conceptual alterations throw the world of expectations into confusion, gently recasting pedestrian objects and conscripting them into a puzzling new world. The work recalls Duchamp’s language games (think of his altered commercial paint sign, Apolinère Enameled, 1916–17, its rearranged letters creating a gnomic inside joke) as well as those of Bruce Nauman—for instance his photographs of himself performing idiomatic expressions to the letter (e.g., “eating my words”). But Floyer’s project has emerged at a later moment, when originality’s obsolescence is old news and the assumed linguistic transparency of Conceptual art has long since been debunked. Instead, it is against the numbing effects of consumerism’s sensationalized visual culture that these modest gestures gain the momentum of their poetic charm.

Reversed, 2005, offers a close-up photograph of a pitched “Reserved” sign (like those commonly seen on restaurant tables) on a white ground. Here the word appears backward, causing a gap between perception and recognition, undermining the certainty of whether the mirror effect is photographic or actual. The title also switches the sign’s letters (s for v), doubling the play and referencing in turn the linguistic operations of Jasper Johns and Sol LeWitt, whose work occasionally turned the austerity of modernist visuality irreverently into fun and games. Drain, 2006, presents a small tweeter facing upward in the middle of the gallery’s floor. It gurgles with the sounds of water flowing down a drain. A wire connects it to a stereo system that simultaneously abets the trompe l’oreille effect and betrays its source.

While Floyer’s strategies suggest demystification, a familiar move, they enact something more complex: a masterful suspension of the division between belief and doubt, allowing for a paradoxical simultaneity of possibility—both illusion and revealed system at once. This practice becomes meaningful in a context where simulation and appropriation have acquired an expectedness that this art wryly disrupts, as in Double Act, 2006, which consists of a theater spotlight that illuminates a wall of pleated red curtains, soon discovered to be a projected illusion. The artist’s light touch rejects the heroic gestures of critique for the playfulness of a humble magic act, whose conceptual trick the viewer must perform.

T.J. Demos