Paris

Seth Price, Compatibility Mode, 2014, screenprint, acrylic, pigmented acrylic polymer, and gesso on plywood, 47 1/4 × 83 5/8 × 7/8".

Seth Price, Compatibility Mode, 2014, screenprint, acrylic, pigmented acrylic polymer, and gesso on plywood, 47 1/4 × 83 5/8 × 7/8".

Seth Price

Galerie Chantal Crousel

Seth Price, Compatibility Mode, 2014, screenprint, acrylic, pigmented acrylic polymer, and gesso on plywood, 47 1/4 × 83 5/8 × 7/8".

Seth Price’s latest works explore the conceptual and visual construction of the standard business envelope, a motif the artist has examined across various media in recent years. The two new groups of work, part of an ongoing project called Folklore U.S., build on his contribution to Documenta 13 in 2012—a venture that included fashions inspired by the patterns printed on the interiors of confidential mailers (a collaboration with menswear designer Tim Hamilton) and large-scale soft-sculpture envelopes. In this show, “Animation Studio,” Price returned to a more traditional presentation of flat wall-mounted works.

Three screen-printed planks of plywood depict what the artist calls “exploded envelopes,” ones that have been torn or folded open. They carry multiple, sometimes conflicting connotations. Their decrepit, rejected state evokes junk mail and the inanity of endless packaging wasted on worthless contents. At the same time, however, the emptied envelopes’ irregular shapes seem to celebrate the utilitarian item’s simple efficiency while acknowledging the imminent obsolescence of the postal system as a valid means of communication. Complicating the photorealism of the envelopes (and recalling the stenciled silhouettes Price has been making since 2007, in which negative space takes on a tangible, if inscrutable, presence), works such as Medium and Compatibility Form (all works 2014) also feature curious abstractions. Based on isolated sections of the torn envelopes, these extracted amorphous shapes cleave together notions of representation and abstraction. The material nature of these works presents yet another interesting dichotomy, as their low-tech salvage aesthetic is actually the result of a sophisticated fabrication process. The ostensibly cheap, Arte Povera–inspired supports have been custom-made for Price with a central ply of rigid, high-quality wood so that the planks do not warp when coated with the layers upon layers of acrylic polymer needed to create the smooth, porcelainlike surface onto which the envelope images are then silk-screened.

The nine other works that were on view are artist-framed silk-screens on fiber-coated wood panels. The horizontality of their four-by-eight-foot format immediately evokes a standard business envelope, blown up to gigantic proportions. Nodding to both Pollock’s allover and Warhol’s use of brands, Price evokes the security patterns intended to conceal an envelope’s contents by repeating, on some of the pieces, a single corporate logo across the entire composition. The logos for Dropbox, Corbis, and Pixar have been selected not just for their visual appeal but also for the role those companies play in the dissemination of digital information: Dropbox enables file-sharing, Corbis licenses images through an online archive, and Pixar specializes in computer animation. By emblazoning his oversize envelopes with these particular trademarks, Price not only references pertinent digital-age issues of security and privacy but insinuates that these companies have something to hide.

A final work, perhaps the most complex on view, belongs to neither series but suggests a summation by combining elements of both. Animation Studio, a three-dimensional exploded envelope pasted on a screenprinted background above the word PIXAR, is a collage of actual and virtual. Here, as in all of these works, Price turns the envelope inside out, as it were, to send a message that we should look more closely at the producers and purveyors of digital information.

Mara Hoberman