Print Ain’t Dead

01/19/2011 4:00 AM |

I’ve been thinking a lot about the transformation of materials since seeing Foxy Production‘s three-person show on the subject. Plently of artists turn something into something else: Rachel Whiteread transforms empty space into cast resin sculptures; Lucy Skaer turns a table into a printing device; and Tom Friedman sculpts an aspirin pill into the shape of a head.

Foxy Production’s exhibition (through January 29) doesn’t include any of these established artists: they deal primarily with emerging art that actually emerges. It makes sense then to see newcomers Deville Cohen, Andrei Koschmieder and Joe Winter in the space. Like some of those more established artists mentioned, I vacillate on how meaningful I find these transformations. That all of them employ printing technology seems closer to the connecting tissue here.

I spent the most time with Joe Winter’s installation, in part because it faces the entrance and is the most visible work. Amongst the more dominant pieces, a small printer slowly spits out images of the sky on a desk until it runs out of ink. Beside this an office light similarly drains the color from sheets of construction paper before Winters pins them on a set of semi-enclosed bulletin boards.

It’s pretty stuff and picks up on a few hot Chelsea trends—namely gradients and printer-based art—but also feels transitional. On one panel, a four-pane grid of darkened areas remains where construction paper once blocked the light; on another, blinds and a fluorescent light reproduce the sky in the window. Were it a coherent statement on anything other than what it is I have a feeling the piece would be poetic. Winter certainly does better with his dry-erase board covered with a black and white topographical photo and smeared marker ink. Here, the photograph serves as camouflage for permanent written communication of uncertain importance. It’s a simple idea, but one that works.

The same might be said for Andrei Koschmieder, who produced a seven-day cat calendar featuring the day of the week and the words “come here.” The production details are apparently important: they were made by a low-tech contact print method to extend the fabrication time, and a calligrapher produced the text. I’m not convinced any of this adds to the reading of the piece, but I did appreciate the idea that the phrase “come here” may be so ineffective with cats to require repetition.

No animals appear in Deville Cohen’s video and storyboards, though he does share Winters’ use of office supplies. His eight-minute dialogue-free video “The Wall” uses a black and white printout of a brick wall as the backdrop for an array of real world props and people. All of them seek to add color to their black and white world. One character dons white socks and gray heels and spray paints them red. Another, wearing only a green bikini and a cutout, photocopied chandelier as a headdress, burns candles. The man playing the fabricated photocopier wears highlighter yellow shorts. The Xerox head is probably the most interesting prop in this video, the brain being depicted as little more than a replication device. Even the machine itself is a construction.

Perhaps as a means of minimizing character relationships, the heads of Cohen’s actors are always obscured, as in the later work of John Baldessari. As a theatrical device this works fine, but it adds to the reservations I have about female objectification in this work. I hate to be a downer on art, but a fair amount of foot and breast fetishization goes on in this piece. That Cohen jettisoned the breasts for his later video, “Gray Scale,” at MoMA PS1’s Greater New York last spring shows he’s making progress.
And this, it seems, can be said of all the participating artists. Each is moving forward, but still in the throes of developing a more mature body of work.

(photo: Deville Cohen, “Low Clearance,” 2010, installation view photo by Mark Woods, courtesy Foxy Production)