@ to concerned artists
i see alex bacon as court stenographer-in-waiting for various galleries showing post internet-style abstract painting. he had a group of favorite artists (jacob kassay, parker ito, etc) and when invited to do the brushes panel at the newmu he clearly wasn't very conversant with michael connor's chosen artists (laura brothers, michael manning). so he adapted and expanded his boilerplate theoretical essay about painting in the digital age to include brothers, beef up his discussion of manning, and add some newbies. his theory is ultimately elastic, but not elastic enough to include outsiders/outliers from the gaming or geek spheres, such as andrej ujhazy, a brushes panel artist bacon omits from his rhizome essay
^Written a few weeks ago -- to flesh it out a bit:
Bacon's modus operandi seems to be roping standard gallery abstraction styles into "digital" discourse, or vice versa. During Bacon's slide talk for the Brushes panel, you could almost feel the collective wince when he described some window-mounted panels as "physical jpegs." His defense of 303 Gallery hot artist du jour Jacob Kassay is similarly "off." Kassay's paintings have a reflective silver surface; some discussion could be had about the materials -- paint vs plated silver, support vs surface, "presence," etc -- but there is nothing intrinsically "cyber" about this work.
Yet in a 2014 interview, Bacon trowels on the digital metaphors to make the work seem relevant to the Facebook era:
They are about the fragmentary and contingent nature of vision and, insofar as this relates to our forging of identity through the endless stream of images we seamlessly upload and download, they have a contemporary valence. We expect for the Kassay to mirror us back, but instead we are faced with a caesura of vision, a literal blurring out. A Kassay constructs a complex visual system, because you want to move around them to resolve the image, but it’s an impossibility. Nor can the autofocus of a camera map one of these paintings, which is radical considering the sinister potential of technologized forms of spatial mapping and image profiling. The work is not “about” that technology, but it has that valence.
The au courant techno-connections -- autofocus, uploading -- offer flimsy, ex post facto justifications for material work. When Georg Herold used a mirrored surface back in the dot com era, it was in the context of a show called "compu.comp.virtual visualities.equivacs.bitmapdyes," so a critic could sort of legitimately talk about mirrors as "screens."
For his Brushes panel essay for Rhizome.org, Bacon recycles the same Kassay apologetics:
Jacob Kassay’s silver paintings, which are canvases coated in acrylic that the artist sends to be commercially plated with silver, are about our expectations of how vision operates—what we see, and our engagement with our own image. People talk about how they absorb their surroundings, but of course they are not mirrors, they are plated silver. You have to burnish the silver to make it reflective and Kassay doesn’t do that, he just takes them as they’re made in the plating process, which gives them very interesting surfaces. Up close the reflection is hazy, but as you go back it gets clearer, and if someone walks by you see them very clearly, while they see themselves as a blur. They are a very concrete commentary on a certain type of perception. These paintings are a suggestion about the fragmentary and contingent nature of vision and, insofar as this relates to our forging of identity through the endless stream of images we seamlessly upload and download, they have a contemporary valence. This is embedded in the functioning of Kassay’s surfaces, which solicit our desire to see ourselves, which has found the apogee of its contemporary expression in the obsession with taking and sharing of selfies. Indeed, people love to try to take their picture as it appears in a Kassay painting, but they find that their individuality is all but melted by the distortions of the plated metal. We expect for the Kassay to mirror us back, but instead we are faced with a caesura of vision, a literal blurring out. A Kassay painting is a construction of a complex visual system, because a viewer wants to move around them to resolve the image, but it’s impossible. Nor can the autofocus of a camera map one of these paintings, which is radical considering the sinister potential of technologized forms of spatial mapping and image profiling. The work is not “about” that technology, but it nonetheless speaks to it obliquely.