by Tyler CoburnMay 16, 2011
Walead Beshty’s “PROCESSCOLORFIELD” at Regen Projects II, Los Angeles
There is little, in the conventional sense, to see in Walead Beshty’s first solo exhibition at Regen Projects. The vibrant, chromatic ribs of the Black Curl series, for example, derive from chance effects of colored light on photographic paper. A separate set of light jet prints, in shallow, plexi boxes, assume the scale and look of the curl series, yet comprise scans of similar pieces from Beshty’s 2011 Natural Histories catalog. As the artist has extensively theorized, such works serve to politically rearticulate the medium, focusing less on the photographic image, its absent referent, and the melancholic, psychical matter that spans the gap. Beshty’s photographs do reveal their indices, though the images are neither windows nor mirrors but flat, concrete parts that coextend with the industrial, economic, and social conditions of their making.(a)
“I try to embrace all the outcomes of the work [and] not repress any of it,” Beshty once remarked to Bob Nickas. The evidence takes form in the shredded and mulched composites of the artist’s “failed or ‘unshowable’” works, as well as Damiani Editore’s test prints of Beshty’s Selected Correspondences 2001-2010 catalog.(b) The publisher’s economical methods yield one of the exhibition’s more amusing sights, as Beshty’s photographs of Berlin’s abandoned Iraqi embassy (Travel Pictures, 2006/2008), already discolored by airport X-Ray machines, are overlaid with test prints from Damiani’s other projects—including a Zenith watch spread. These visual contingencies appear to have comparable functions as the X-Ray inscriptions on Travel Pictures and Transparencies (2006 -), or the wear-and-tear of the FedEx series (2007 -), in acknowledging facets of art’s transport and distribution that rarely fit the gallery’s miraculating narrative. Yet if the earlier projects expand the photographic conversation, in part, by drawing focus to state and corporate administration of navigable, visual fields, the test prints reinforce a discursive insularity that permeates the exhibition. Notwithstanding its valuable, ethical imperative, “PROCESSCOLORFIELD” purports that the laying bare of artistic production is automatically good, even when the works on view reduce public agency to the dutiful acknowledgement that, indeed, the artist has held himself accountable.
The gallery does not escape Beshty’s scrutinizing eye. Hanging throughout Regen Projects are the polished Copper Surrogates (2009 -) and powder-coated, steel bases that replaced gallery tables and desks during two previous exhibitions. Oxidized with the incidentally expressionistic marks of past use, these portrait-oriented slabs fall in line behind their titular progenitors, recalling Allan McCollum’s hope that through the “prop”-like function of his own Plaster Surrogates and Surrogate Paintings, “the gallery itself would become like a picture of a gallery by re-creating an art gallery as a stage set.”(c) Following May I Help You?, a 1991 collaboration with Andrea Fraser at American Fine Arts, Co., in which Fraser’s surrogate gallery staff soliloquized before an exhibition of McCollum’s Plaster Surrogates, Beshty’s riffs seem anachronistically tame, risking formalistic pacification of the very institution that they endeavor to test. While Beshty has argued for the “re-use” and “recombination of dominant scripts,” the question of the critical efficacy of his means, in this exhibition, remains just that.(d)
(a) “Roundtable Discussion on Abstraction and Photography with Christopher Bedford, Walead Beshty, Liz Deschenes, and Eileen Quinlan.” Frieze. September 2009.
(b) “Open Source: Walead Beshty in Conversation with Bob Nickas.” From Walead Beshty: Natural Histories. Zürich: JRP|Ringier, 2011.
(c) “Allan McCollum Interviewed by Thomas Lawson.” From Allan McCollum. William Bartman and Thomas Lawson. Los Angeles: A.R.T. Press, 1996.
(d) “Open Source: Walead Beshty in Conversation with Bob Nickas.” From Walead Beshty: Natural Histories. Zürich: JRP|Ringier, 2011.
- 1View of, "PROCESSCOLORFIELD", at Regen Projects II, Los Angeles, 2011. All photos by Brian Forrest. All images courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
- 2Walead Beshty, Black Curl (CMY/Five Magnet: Irvine, California, March 26th 2010, Fujicolor Crystal Archive Super Type C, Em. No. 165-021, 07810), 2011. Color photographic paper. 51 7/16 inches x 111 5/16 inches.
- 3Walead Beshty, Natural Histories. Texts by Nicolas Bourriaud, Suzanne Hudson, and Bob Nickas. Zurich: JRP Ringier, 2011. Exhibition catalogue, pp. 126-127, 2011. Light jet print in custom plexi box. 108 1/2 inches x 51 1/2 x 7 inches.
- 4Walead Beshty, Copper Surrogate (Table: designed by Florence Knoll, 1961; Regen Projects II, Los Angeles, California, July 17 - August 21, 2010) [detail], 2010. Polished copper. 48 inches x 81 inches x 1 1/2 inches.
- 5Walead Beshty, Make-Ready 1 (Uncut Signatures, Walead Beshty: Selected Correspondences 2001-2010, Damiani Editore, Bologna, July 4-6, 2010) [detail], 2011. Four-color offset on coated and uncoated paper 8 sheets. Coated paper size - 25 1/4 x 34 1/2 inches - 6 sheets. Uncoated paper size - 32 x 40 inches - 2 sheets.