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Untitled (part of 'Flaming U' serie)
236 x 140 cm
Guyton’s paintings are printed onto sheets of linen that are folded in half and run, sometimes repeatedly, through large inkjet printers. Inconsistencies surface on the canvas, caused by diminishing levels of ink toner or technical glitches, distorting and disrupting the image, while intentional ‘errors’, such as streaks, creases and misalignments, occur as the fabric feeds – or is pulled – through the machine. Guyton’s works on paper are printed over pages removed from art catalogues, with the artist’s additions obscuring or revealing the original images and text. The works focused on three different kinds of image production: photographs taken of the artist’s studio on his camera phone, screenshots of web pages captured on the artist’s computer, and details of bitmap files. Together these track Guyton’s working environment, affirming the ‘potential to use anything as subject matter’.
«I’ve become interested in when something starts as an accident and then becomes a template for other things, or reproduces itself and generates its own logic until something else intervenes to change it.» - Wade Guyton, 2005
This work belongs to Wade Guyton’s iconic series of ‘flaming U’ paintings. Redefining categorical conventions of the painting medium, Guyton is renowned for his use of today’s technologies to render a distinct visual language. Using computer programs, the artist scans, alters, and manipulates imagery to create digital compositions and transfers them onto canvas using his signature Epson inkjet printer. Physically intervening in the mechanics of the operation, Guyton forces and drags the material through the machine, inducing glitches, blurs, and smears. By running the canvas through a printer unequipped to such thickness, Guyton invites chance and incidental errors into the paint application process. The stuttering lines reverberating across the surface of Untitled serve as traces of Guyton wrenching the heavy linen through the printer. Thus, an image that began as a tightly controlled digital vector is unraveled into the capricious marks of man versus machine.
The resultant paintings are redolent with human expression as they embrace errors inherent to the printing mechanism— misaligned registers, fissured edges, and faded discolorations. The push and pull between mechanized control and unbridled chaos is what makes this painting simultaneously alluring and radical. Through his use of a computer and an industrial sized printer to create imagery, Guyton challenges assumptions about the prescribed definitions of painting, joining the innovative ranks of artists such as Pollock and his dripping technique, Warhol and his silkscreens, and Richter and his squeegee.
«You tap a keyboard with one finger and this very large painting emerges. It’s gone against everything we think of as a painting. Pollock flung it; Rauschenberg silkscreened it; Richter took a squeegee; Polke used chemicals. Wade is working in what by now is a pretty venerable tradition, against the conventional idea of painting.» - Ann Temkin, 2012
The emblazoned letter epitomizes the celebrated iconography of the ‘flaming U’ series. Sourcing and scanning the seductive flame from the cover of Stephen King’s 1980 novel Firestarter, Guyton recast the daunting emblem and set the letter U ablaze. The juxtaposition of the baroque flame and the minimalist alphabet are what set this series apart from his previous minimalistic repertoire of stripes and letters. Drawing a parallel between subject matter and creative process, Guyton discusses his choice of fire as the dominant imagery in paintings such as this:
Fire is always captivating. I thought of it as romantic, but camp. Destructive, but also generative. And of course hot. There’s a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings, which I didn’t predict, in the way the ink drips and runs. The first time I printed the fire on linen was one of those brutally humid New York summer nights. No AC in the studio. I was sweating, and the paintings were melting. - Wade Guyton
Guyton, whose work is now held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, first moved to New York from a small town in Tennessee in 1996. While studying at Hunter College under the tutelage of the revered minimalist sculptor Robert Morris, the artist worked for seven years as a guard at the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea, surrounded by the work of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Dan Graham. Guyton’s importance as both an exceptional student of the art of the past and a father figure for the artists of today was cemented with his critically acclaimed mid- career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2012. Most recently, the Museum Ludwig hosted a major survey exhibition in 2019-2022 that presented his oeuvre from the beginning of his career to his most recent works.
credit: Courtesy of Art Dealer & Artist