With the use of digital technologies, Wade Guyton, brings John Cage’s ‘chance methods’ into the twenty-first century.
Since 2004, Wade Guyton, started to create large-scale paintings with digital technologies such as iPhones, scanners and printers. Instead of paper the American artist fed his inkjet printer with sheets of linen. As an Epson UltraChrome HDR inkjet is not designed to print on uneven surfaces thicker than paper it starts to protest. It creates irregularities on the linen like drips, streaks or blurs caused by diminishing level of ink toner or a canvas jam and the artist has to jerk the linen from the printer. Guyton seeks those ‘glitches’ that can’t be designed or predicted. He employs a machine that is designed to print glossy images in series into a whimsical tool that creates unique works of art that can’t be copied.
Guyton’s first works made with this process were black monochromes and large scale letters (X and U) on white or black backgrounds. Guyton’s new show at the Serpentine, ‘Das New Yorker Atelier, Abridged’ is a selection of mainly gloomy, sober coloured works that were first shown at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich earlier this year.
For this body of work the artist took his New York studio as inspiration. Printed on linen are images of the Freedom Tower shot from the artist’s studio window, screenshots of the homepage of The New York Times, monochromes and details of bitmap files. The large scale canvases have a seam in the middle which creates a new interpretation of the diptych with misalignments. “As the width of the printer is limited, Guyton has to fold the linen to run it through the inkjet printers,” Rebecca Lewin, the curator of the show told me. “The sheet of linen goes twice through the machine to print the left side and then right side of the image”. Lewin points at a section of an iPhone add printed on linen and adds, “Sometimes he runs the linen a few times through the printer as he wants to increase the density of the colour”.
For quite some time art fairs have been flooded with monochromes as they are selling like hot cakes. In the Serpentine show, Guyton expands the creative process of his monochromes. He took a picture of his studio floor and included his right foot (visible in the bottom left corner). The green, salmon colours look psychedelic. They may be manipulated with the computer or created by the printer running out of ink.
The work reminded me of the ‘Cage’ paintings by Gerard Richter displayed at Tate Modern. Richter became inspired by the American composer, John Cage, who employed elements of chance in his compositions. Richter put blobs of paint on the canvas and with a huge squeegee he moves the wet paint across the surface. The paint starts to mix in wondrous ways on the canvas.
Chance methods have been explored in art by numerous artists such as Jackson Pollock and Damien Hirst in his ‘Spin Paintings’. With the use of digital technologies Guyton takes John Cage’s intellectual legacy into an artistic discovery with unanticipated but welcome surprises.
Written by Thierry Somers
Untitled (work featuring the X) by Wade Guyton, 2007