Clunie Reid

MOT International

The images Clunie Reid uses—culled from tabloids, the Internet, snapshots, and low-grade celebrity magazines—are rephotographed and printed on sheets of shiny silver paper that are then applied to aluminum panels and partially edged with duct tape. Inserted seamlessly within the pictures are digital-type texts or graphics; upon them have been occasionally applied cheap, colorful stickers of the variety favored in the late elementary school years. Imperatives such as COME BACK! or IT’S TIME FOR BED CASSIOPEIA! may be scrawled in black or red marker, in the round and rapidly executed penmanship recognizable from the stalls of public toilets. Rather than collage, the overall effect is more like effacement. Images and texts that enjoyed little respect in their previous existences are now suspended in a state of permanent debasement and impenetrability thanks to some digital or handwritten juxtaposition: an arcade game with a semierased text that begins SHE LIKES THE WAY SHE FEELS or a stylized bluebird accompanying the words I’M SO GLAD I FOUND A WEBSITE LIKE THIS! There is no sense of a flat, tabletop cut-and-paste job here: Each work forms a world that feels generated on the vertical axis of the computer screen. Bodies and body parts stand erect: for example, a solarized bikini-clad “Pammy” Anderson (Chair, Light, Pammy, Dark; all works 2009); or a woman’s legs stuck into trash (This Picture Is Equivalent of Everything Real); or three-inch, sushi-covered fingernails aiming upward like cathedral spires (123ABCD). The writing, too—sometimes of the type displayed on digital traffic signs, sometimes more like graffiti—participates in the works’ insistent verticality. It is all gutter stuff, but it refuses, literally, to lie down. The works stand boldly before us; with their moderate size, consistent palette, and formally beautiful, painterly compositions, they are surprisingly suggestive of easel painting. Watery blues and reds, or bright sprays of light created by a camera flash glow on the silver paper, while the felt-tip pen, not quite adhering to the slick surface, gives the words a brushy feel, almost like calligraphy. It’s all quite liquid, recalling the silver-gelatin origins of photography, but also sticky—the youthful decals, the tape, the sushi—reinforcing the slimy nature of the subject matter. Finally, their metallic weight suggests an almost sculptural presence. These are works wherein painting, collage, photography, digital media, drawing, and sculpture are all combined in an exhilarating mix, yet they feel understated, accidental, as if randomly pulled from the garbage of twenty-first-century culture ready-made.

The pictures’ often blurred and acidly colored images are the product of successive generations of repro, giving the backgrounds a sense of distance in time and space, contrasting with the manic urgency of the felt-tip writing as well as the interruptive sticker details and the ragged frames of duct tape. It is overwhelming to see an exhibition in which every single work (eleven in all) is so beautiful and coherent, each a minor miracle of chance and energy, each suggesting a vast, casually violent world existing desperately behind it.

Gilda Williams