Cheryl Donegan, Ryan Fenchel, Wade Guyton, Tom Meacham
03.27 — 05.14.11
“It is not only an art that manifests itself through weak images—images with weak visibility, images that are necessarily overlooked when they function as components of strong images with a high level of visibility, such as images of classical art or mass culture.” – Boris Groys
For Cheryl Donegan, Wade Guyton and Tom Meacham, three of the artists featured in Kabinett 6, “weak” images, that is, subjects derived largely from digital sources — high-speed and high-connectivity technology — are wedded to low visibility imagery from personal computing and the internet to form the basis of individual and related projects. In their work, they recognize how the frantic pace of innovation in digital and communication technologies compresses our sense of time; rather than contemplated, our images are instantly ripped, posted and linked.
Wade Guyton produces “monochromes” from simple image files that are printed on canvas with a ink-jet printer. The technology is deliberately stressed by commanding the computer to print a relatively small file over a large canvas area and by pulling at the material as it feeds through the printer, forcing breaks and stutters in the scan lines. Gaps and errors disrupt smooth function — the printer skips and drops the images as one would scratch a record on a turntable. In his work, Guyton understands how those digital files, clearly derived from “weak” sources, can be relocated through aggressively directed material and process.
The imagery in Cheryl Donegan‘s paintings comes directly from millions of Jpegs posted daily on the internet. The flotsam and jetsam on eBay and Craigslist, uploaded catalog inventory, and all the blog pages that no one has time to look at. The frantic pace of clicking from screen to screen inspires compositions in her paintings that overlap, obscure, hint and distract. Her sense of space, building off the fracturing of Cubism, follows the logic of junkspace: the endlessly additive, thin, permanently unrealized space of cities littered with cranes, Grand Opening banners and abandoned storefronts.
In Tom Meacham‘s work, the Untitled paintings and the Fuzagi paintings both announce a state of uncertainty: a title, and a legitimate identity. This negative approach, this self-erasure, is nonetheless broadcast in the strongest way possible: the garish colors of the grid painting, indeterminately selected by feeding randomly generated numbers into a computer program, are a return to zero, semiotics, an imposter, and simultaneously an argument for the spectacle in painting. And in spite of its surrealist legacy, the painting that announces THIS IS NOT A FUGAZI T-SHIRT cancels out not only its identity as a painting, but also ideas of economy and authorship.
Each of these artists share the idea of “weakness.” Erasure, lack of closure and misuse puts them firmly within the realm of what Boris Groys terms the “ultra-modern” — a fast moving society with little time to resolve or complete images, only to keep clicking; discarding one project for the next; oscillating between the poles of outlandish luxury and debased realism. They displace the weak image within the technology of the digital and announce the latest move in a paradox between so much and too little.
In Ryan Fenchel‘s recent work, metonymy drives the discourse. Objects, images and ideas link up with one another to move meaning outside and beyond any literal association that might limit the reading. Quoting Steve Reinke in a statement about Ryan Fenchel’s work, he says “things don’t stand in for other things, abstract concepts are not allegorized as concrete things or characters. Instead, there are potentially endless chains of associations, things are substituted for other things more or less like them. Things rub against one another, are arranged — sometimes in regulated geometric patterns, sometimes like stars in a constellation — and there is always something contingent in these arrangements: components could be switched or substituted without the autonomy of the Fenchel world being compromised.” Like the other artists in Kabinett 6, the accumulation and relocation of cultural material is the primary objective in these humble but mysterious works.