press release

This exhibition offers a few reflections on a young generation of artists whose disparate engagements with the operations of appropriation suggest that it remains an incessant and viable strategy. The show examines some of the turns and tendencies of recent appropriationisms that are personal, political, formal, popular, historical, technical and self-critical. We see appropriation take a variety of forms, from a direct lifting of cultural artifacts to a more veiled resuscitation of the vernacular. What once pertained to solely the act of collecting and cutting is now the domain of sampling and hacking. These young neo-appropriationists have a craftiness to their work, through slight or masked mediation. Their production often is invested in the resignification of personal, political or historical memory, entering the terrain of the critical-nostalgic. Both formal and socio-political questions are addressed in such casual gestures of looking, remembering and re-appropriating to provide infinite possibilities and potential for representation.

Our era of digital reproduction and the excess of accessible and inescapable visual information at super-speed, perhaps prompts a need to isolate images, return to representation in a deliberate, exhaustive manner, to dwell on signification, circulation, translation, recontextualization and reconfiguration of visual languages. New York based multi-media artist Kelley Walker’s digitally montaged poster takes on the propandist logic and language of advertising, summoning its audience to “Reappropriate.” Walker’s poster presents the work as a secondary graphic output - a token of the actual work itself-a CD rom, that includes directions for the potential alteration, replication and dispersal of the piece. The image of a Californian backyard, devastated by an earthquake, is decorated with vividly toned amorphous abstractions characteristic of digital painting. Culled from a book, the page crease in the image spread remains. The action of lifting is made apparent. This is a game of contradictions played out within the logic of the computer. With a click, what could camouflage the act of co-option is not put into service. Rather, the neurosis of the Internet is evoked, providing an a-temporal, frenzied informational moment. Decorative patterning meets disaster – the results of a search engine gone wrong.

Art and Obsolescence Emblematic of a generational drift towards a new brand of appropriationism, the lexicon that is often reclaimed by this young generation of practitioners is that of the television, the internet, and the video game. Historic time is the 1980s. Pre-Play Station II psychology fuels a kind of memorializing gesture on the part of New York based artist Seth Price. His nostalgia for vestiges of a not-so-distant past includes a chronicle of popular images and personal memories – Capri Sun, Fruit Roll-Ups, Yoplait, Sony Walk-Mans, Apple II and Atari. This adolescent memorabilia serves as the basis for a kind of archiving of the detritus of the digital age. In Global Taste, A Meal in 3 Courses, Price steals an element from Martha Rosler’s eighties classic. Interested in Rosler’s recontextualization of popular cultural iconography, particularly, her montage of commercials from the 1980s, from Hot Pockets, to Granola Dips, to Dennys, Price isolates and reanimates one aspect of her original tri-partite video installation. Price’s further decontextualization of Rosler’s media-critique, signals a perfect performance to actualize Price’s "retro-fixation" via Rosler’s recuperation of a particular moment in the media-imaginary of a lost Michael Jackson and E.T. loving America. In this way, the work primarily speaks to the artist’s fascination with advertising as an archaic cultural relic.

Reprocessing of Form Wade Guyton’s neo-minimalist reductive architectonic sculptures are representative of a young generation of artists gesturing to minimalism’s enmeshed traditions of sculpture, architecture and design. In Untitled Action Sculpture (chair), Guyton deconstructs a generic design object. A sinuous silver metal sculpture is composed of co-opted legs of a Breur-style chair, pulled, prodded, and reconfigured it into highly formal abstracted terms. Guyton’s most recent corpus began as black manual drawings, interventions onto found material, torn pages from design, home and sculpture publications, largely from the sixties and seventies. Obscuring and disfiguring the image with a rudimentary graphic negational gesture, primarily, an inscription of a black X cancels the found image. Guyton’s mark both obliterates and engages with the visual terms of the appropriated material. These drawings address the concerns of his sculptures – the negotiation of ornamentation versus function, the production of contingent temporary structures reduced in form to signify merely on the level of style.

The Politics of Appropriation Born out of the artist's methodical, daily practice of collecting, Siemon Allen’s work signals a series of installations engaging the media-image of South Africa. In re-examining the presence of South Africa in pop culture and in the press, Allen challenges the viewer to encounter the entanglement of global politics, economics and culture. Allen’s series of collections – South African stamps, American newspapers, model guns, reverberate with his earlier collections of personal cultural artifacts from his white suburban middle class youth - Hardy Boys books, Doc Martens, model airplanes, Tintin comics. These relics excavate personal and cultural memory. These acts of appropriation historicize the contemporary, creating at once temporal rift, collapse, and camouflage.

Aestheticization of the Ordinary Russian-born, New York based artist Anton Vidokle’s project is invested in the co-option of modernist, revolutionary iconography via various techniques of abstraction, decontextualization and resignification. His work reveals the transference and translation of signs, removed from the realm of the socio-political to the space of the commercial, into the terrain of art in the guise of the popular, referential and the institutional. This made manifest in a series of stickers Popular Geometries , of faux logotypes, mainly extracted from Eastern European and Latin American companies. The multiple transpositions of early modernist language is not purely an aesthetic question for Vidokle, but a reflection of his concern with the manner in which the early utopian ideals of modernism were dissipated by the market, and depleted of their revolutionary social potential .  The artist is concerned with the circuit of modernist language appropriated into corporate and popular vernacular. Nuevo, marks a public performance of painting the facade of a defunct train station in Mexico City at the Salto del Aqua metro stop red in a modular fashion. A film and photographic project is based on the facade of this modular, modernist structure turning the surface into sign.

This exhibition is based on an article of the same name (Parkett 67, 2003). Lauri Firstenberg is the newly appointed Assistant Director/Curator of the MAK Center, Los Angeles. Pressetext

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Notes on Renewed Appropriationisms
Kurator: Lauri Firstenberg
mit Arbeiten von Siemon Allen, Wade Guyton, Ellen Harvey, Mathieu Mercier, Seth Price, Anton Vidokle, Kelley Walker
Projekte von Ruben Ochoa, Michael Queenland