New York

Vivan Suter, Untitled, 2017, oil and pigment on canvas. Installation view. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

Vivan Suter, Untitled, 2017, oil and pigment on canvas. Installation view. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

Hudinilson Jr., Jessica Mein, Vivian Suter

Simon Preston

Vivan Suter, Untitled, 2017, oil and pigment on canvas. Installation view. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

The original 1938 Xerox machine transferred images from one surface to another using a six-step electrographic process that required fixing a negatively charged powder to a positively charged piece of paper. That powder, today known as toner, is adhered with heat and was originally made of moss spores.

Like that of photography, the advent of xerography (“dry writing”) had far-reaching repercussions, unsurprisingly facilitating office productivity but also precipitating government leaks and aids activism. Advertisers soon took up the technique, as did artists. In America, Pati Hill was perhaps the most prominent pioneer; in Brazil, it may have been Hudinilson Jr. At Simon Preston Gallery, for Condo New York—a cooperative project that brought artworks from twenty international galleries to host spaces in the city this past July—works by Hudinilson Jr. (from Jacqueline Martins in São Paulo) were juxtaposed with those of Jessica Mein and Vivian Suter (from Proyectos Ultravioleta in Guatemala City), all of whom have employed writing, photography, collage, and that specific xerox process.

In the front of the gallery, Mein’s meronumero, 2011, a stop-motion animation video of collaged and scanned fragments of billboard prints, played on a chunky television. Her paintings—made by transferring prints onto canvas, which she then cut or carefully unraveled in rectangular bands—hung nearby. Occupying the center of the gallery were Suter’s ten unstretched paintings, suspended from the ceiling in a tight parallel sequence. At the back, Hudinilson Jr.’s works on paper notated the exhibition, while in the rear room, a grid of shelves displayed books of Mein’s manipulated billboard prints.

Suter’s engagement with xerography is among the closest to the process as it was originally developed. To make Untitled, 2017, she left the canvases on the floor inside and outside her studio and home in Panajachel, Guatemala, a former coffee plantation where tropical plants grow comfortably. Exposed to the elements, the canvases accumulated residues—a kind of toner made of dirt, debris, fruit, and foliage. (Suter finds decomposition productive: An entire page of the artist’s website is dedicated to Agatha, the tropical storm that once again merged her art with nature.) While Hudinilson Jr.’s works often involve a distinctly interior process (folding skin into an enclosed machine, as in his most iconic Xerox prints depicting male bodies), Suter’s blossom outward to temporarily join a landscape. In the gallery, the back of one nearly touched the front of another. Verso is nearly as marked—and as important—as recto.

Jessica Mein’s contributions spoke more to the commercial utilization of Xeroxes; the video flicked through images at the pace of a snappy advertisement. The worn ads had been torn, layered, and magnified into abstract compositions, which were then drawn on and scanned before being incorporated as individual frames. The prints are now shorthand, fragments of language. A comma dangles. Though the video felt almost claustrophobic in its focus on the hallmark colored dots of printing processes, Mein’s paintings, with their cut components exposing the stretcher bars, moved into the physicality of billboards supported by immense frames.

In the back room, Mein’s books of prints (recalling earlier Xerox books by Mel Bochner and Seth Siegelaub) and Hudinilson Jr.’s collages returned the eye to paper, that physical carrier substance. Far from the sterility of the office machine, the Xerox-inspired works read more like flesh. Hudinilson Jr.’s looked wet with ink that, in delineating body hairs, remained slightly raised from the page. The context for the show, a transposition of international and local artists, seemed to have translated to a presentation whose elements nearly read as collaborative: The toner has cooled, the spores have settled, the paint has dried, but the Xerox is still working.

Mira Dayal