"Ever since Picasso or Braque first incorporated a fragment of commercially fabricated illusionistic woodgrain wallpaper or chair caning oilcloth into the first works of Synthetic Cubism, Art has been feeding off the corpse of its industrial mass media doppelgänger. In an abrupt inversion of the alchemical mechanism underlying the entire preceding history of art, the sudden superabundance of pictorial or otherwise symbolically fashioned artifacts became the base material out of which artistic gold was fashioned.
The significance of this breach and subsequent fallout cannot be overemphasized, yet it has been strangely marginalized in most conventional accounts of Modernist and so-called Postmodern art history. Within only a few years, the reversal of the relationship of the commercially designed world and the privileged cultural position of the high artifact had reached an early apotheosis in Duchamp’s Fountain; an inverted hardware-store urinal, signed with a pseudonym taken from the funny pages, and immortalized in a small circulation but mass-media modeled zine.
In 2004, a survey of 500 British art world professionals sponsored by Gordon’s Gin named Fountain the most influential artwork of the XXth century (“You don’t buy influence, you just rent it”), yet most of the evaluations of its impact emphasize its arbitrariness, de-aestheticization, confrontationalism, and the problematic “It’s art if an artist says so” effect. The problematicisms arise primarily from another inversion: the implementation of a distorted mirror formula to grant the undiminished social authority of the Artiste on anyone who is capable of designating readymades – “If I can say so, I’m an Artist.” Obviously, this includes anybody capable of grasping the concept - or able to pretend - resulting in all manner of more negotiable criteria coming into play. Talk about your trickle-down economy!
It’s not inconceivable that Duchamp intuited these repercussions; he probably never really expected the Art World establishment to go “Oh, we see, everyone’s an artist,” and close up shop. As with most of his work (and most work of lasting influence) Fountain operates simultaneously on multiple levels. For example, the inversion of the urinal and titular redesignation of its function clearly establish it as the symmetrical corollary to its un-readymade former self: half of a binary system in which cast-off waste materials are recirculated into the world as precious showers of gold..."
"This subtext is at play in any artwork that draws from the material residue of the modern information glut, but most of the artists included in China Adams’ The Loop Show and The Small Loop Show are more conscious and deliberate about the symbolic implications of their process. The Institute for Figuring’s ecstatic, organic curdles of white plastic grocery bags, shiny black videotape, and other pernicious polyethelene products are outgrowths of their consciousness-raising collective artwork creating a freely interpreted hyperbolic crochet replica of the endangered coral reefs of Australia.
Anne Hieronymous’ stylized winter wonderland is built on accumulated landfill strata of discarded festive gewgaws. Don Suggs’ Feast Poles embody a typical balancing act between consummate formalism and acerbic commentary on what passes for totemic in the age of plastic. Robert Larson revives the mid-century folk craft of assembling elaborate patterns out of empty cigarette packs, honoring the gravitas of the intervening revelations regarding the tobacco’s health impact and the sinister machinations of the industry by producing dazzlingly intricate mosaics that deliver an undeniably sacred twist. Nuttaphol Ma’s giant minimal spool of recovered white plastic is a functioning component of the artist’s “self-imposed sweatshop” in Chinatown, where he will ultimately be reconstructing his ancestral house from cast-off material..."
Read the rest of What Goes Around (and download the Loop Shows catalog free) here.
Visit The Small Loop Show at FOCA 970 North Broadway Suite 208, Los Angeles CA 90012 through Nov 12
Loop show photo credits: Suggs and Ma - Kohl King; all others - Heather Stobo