Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present default curated by Eden Phair with participating artists Trisha Baga, Morgan Canavan, Cheryl Donegan, Victoria Fu, Guthrie Lonergan, Miami-Dutch, Erin Jane Nelson, Adam Parker Smith, Jesse Stecklow, and Mungo Thomson. The exhibition will be on view from April 30 through June 11, 2016 with a reception for the artists at the gallery on April 30, 2016 from 6-8pm.
Often seen in early online publishing platforms like Angelfire or WordPress, defaults are preselected options computer programs provide when no alternative is specified by the user. As artist Guthrie Lonergan notes on his webpage Hacking vrs. defaults (2007), the most banal websites are generally constructed from these preselected options. In desktop computer programs like Photoshop and iMovie, defaults allow users to digitally mimic complex aesthetic techniques like color gradients with the click of a mouse. The result can be described as what artist Michael Bell-Smith referred to in his 2013 talk Image Employment at MoMA PS1 as the “readymade affect.” In 1915, Marcel Duchamp first applied the term “readymade” to his sculpture Prelude to a Broken Arm, a store-bought snow shovel suspended from the ceiling. By using the term readymade to describe an aesthetic affect achieved via digital defaults, Bell-Smith aligns intangible phenomena online with tangible objects in physical space, positioning the default in direct dialogue with the historical readymade. The artists in default utilize mass-produced objects, found images, video, or basic computer software default settings as readymades, thereby raising questions about the status of images and the concept of the unique art object in the broader culture.
Trisha Baga (b. 1985) creates layered, immersive installations with found objects, video, and photographs. Often incorporating items from her studio, Baga’s environments are reminiscent of descriptions of Marcel Duchamp’s studio where “boundaries between the readymades and the surrounding furniture and studio detritus were nonexistent.”1 Competition/Competition (2012) is an abstract digital animation that is projected through a store-bought water bottle onto a standard size white foam core board. As the light from the projector passes through the bottle, it is refracted onto the board and the surrounding walls.
When Jesse Stecklow (b. 1993) found a discarded dog feeder on a sidewalk, he approached Morgan Canavan (b. 1989) to help him reinterpret its function. Using The Financial Times as a starting point, Canavan rearranged images from the newspaper to create new layouts that he then scanned and printed onto metal sheets. Placing a dog whistle inside, Stecklow repurposed the erstwhile feeder as a base for Canavan’s “newspapers.” The whistle continually emits a sound that is inaudible to humans, suggesting that what we can perceive is not all there is to the world.
Cheryl Donegan (b. 1962) is equally influenced by technology and fashion. Sourcing video from YouTube or shooting original footage with her iPhone, Donegan uploads edited videos to the social media platform Vine for her ongoing video Vines. Intended to be viewed at 480 pixels on a smartphone screen, the videos’ low resolution yields pixelated and distorted images when scaled up to a monitor. In Cheryl (2005), Donegan juxtaposes audio appropriated from a corporate motivational lecture with found low-resolution images of consumer items. Legging Leggings (2015) was made in collaboration with the online vendor Print All Over Me as a further comment on the ubiquity of “do-it-yourself” services that substitute hands-on design and fabrication with templates for “makers” to choose from.
In the series Belle Captive, Victoria Fu (b. 1978) employs stock videos, photographs, and sound that she finds on the internet. As with many of Fu’s works, the presentation of the videos in the series incorporate the surrounding architecture and artist-designed architectural elements to give structure to ephemeral digital images. Removing the subjects from their original backgrounds in found stock videos and photographs, Fu places the figures in front of soft, soothing washes of color that are reminiscent of Color Field paintings and reference the history of cameraless films. Its inclusion in default marks the first presentation of Belle Captive II on the west coast.
To make his new video series Events, Appointments, & Errands, Guthrie Lonergan (b. 1984) collected personal photographs from photo sharing websites like Flickr. Operating like a slideshow or PowerPoint presentation, the videos float from one still image to the next. Calling attention to hackneyed techniques for creating “dynamic” presentations of still images, Lonergan uses rudimentary animation techniques available in iMovie to zoom in or pan out. Events, Appointments, & Errands will be presented on monitors atop a backdrop of printed vinyl wall covering resembling a museum didactic.
Collectively known as Miami-Dutch, Lauren Elder (b. 1990), Brian Khek (b. 1989), André Lenox (b. 1990), Evan Lenox (b. 1990), and Micah Schippa (b. 1988) devised their name from references to a near-extinct language (Miami-Illinois) and a dialect known as Jersey Dutch that disappeared generations ago. Although they all lived together during their time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, they are now scattered across the country and rely on the internet to sustain their collaborations. Mirroring principles of the “creative economy,” Miami-Dutch mine culture to create new symbols to distill contemporary experience.
Erin Jane Nelson (b. 1989) prints fabric with found and original digital images then pieces it together with found clothing, baubles, keepsakes, and detritus in elaborate quilts. For Skin Diver and Little Master (both 2016), Nelson installed a Nest Cam Security Camera in her studio to monitor her dog while she was out. Using a basic screen capture process, Nelson pulled stills from the footage to use as a starting point. Uniting digital images recorded automatically by a machine with the labor-intensive art of quilting, Nelson gives physical form to the constant stream of otherwise ephemeral images.
Recalling paintings and sculptures by artists like Frank Stella and Jeff Koons, Adam Parker Smith’s (b. 1978) bombastic sculptures extrude from the wall like an exaggerated form of bas relief. Smith strategically overlays and weaves readymade materials and objects to create real-world layers that mimic the digital layers familiar to those who use Photoshop. Secured to a pre-fabricated metal grid structure that is often used to display merchandise in retail settings, Smith’s sculptures suggest a reduction of culture to commerce. Blowout (2016) features brightly hued dolphin-shaped balloons, jumpropes, and pool noodles.
Stacks and boxes of vintage Time Life Books collections fill corners of Mungo Thomson’s (b. 1969) studio. Procured from e-commerce websites like eBay, the book sets cover topics from Special Effects to Gems to Home Repair and Improvement. Reminiscent of both minimalist sculpture by Light and Space artists like Peter Alexander or Larry Bell and souvenir items like commemorative paper weights and snow globes, Thomson’s series Inclusions preserves individual books from the Time Life Books collections within thick, clear polished Lucite. The sculptures evoke ideas about the legitimation and transmission of knowledge during an age of transition from books to websites, libraries to the internet.
1 Dorothea Dietrich, Brigid Doherty, Sabine Kriebel, and Leah Dickerman. Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hanover, Cologne, New York, Paris (District of Columbia: National Gallery of Art, 2008), 287.