Red Tape is the title of the new show inaugurated last week at the Gazelli Art House in London; the gallery, which promotes an intense programme of exhibitions frequently supported by events and talks, has in this occasion paired under the same roof two apparently unrelated artists, the American Stanley Casselman and the Korean, London-based Hyo Myoung Kim.
The outcome is an interesting curatorial work which tackles the questions of continuity with the tradition of modern art in the contemporary art practice and of authorship in relation to the notion of copy vs. original – both in terms of market value of art works and in theoretical terms about the value of the signature or la patte of the artist. In particular the work of Hyo Myoung Kim selected is the one that addresses more the question of continuity with the modern tradition, while Casselman’s pieces (in particular the series Inhaling Richter on display) are more related to the question of copy vs. original.
Authenticity and authorship have been dominant topics in avant-gardist research since the beginning of the 20th Century and are linked to the origin of the abstract art and to the l’art pour l’art aesthetic (as Greenberg pointed out in his essay Modernist Painting “each art would be rendered “pure”, and in its “purity” find the guarantee of its standard of quality as well as of its independence”).In modern painting the artistic research focused on the medium of painting itself rather than on a specific subject matter, emphasising those that were previously considered the limitations of painting – such as flat surface and support – to re-enact the power of the artist as author. In order to redefine their role within the discipline, Casselman and Myoung Kim are tackling similar question at the beginning of the 21st Century. Similarly to their predecessors, these contemporary artists adopt the language of pure abstraction in order to address again questions of authorship and originality. The show examines this continuity with the modern tradition – in both language and theoretical enquiry – of the two artist’s practice which clearly quotes important figures such as Mondrian and Richter.
In the series Inhaling Richter Casselman clearly questions the power of the artist’s signature. Ironically, artist Gerhard Richter was against the signature or la patte of the artist; he claimed that he liked everything that has no style and that he tried to get rid of the personal touch in his early paintings in favour of a more anonymous character. In copying Richter’s signature, Casselman explicitly critiques the idea of conforming to a successful style or formal rules as a code for success in the art business (It also implicitly criticises the commodification of the avant-garde and its reduction to a purely formal language).
His Korean colleague instead – like his modernist fathers – seems to engage with the question of the medium of painting recently challenged by digital techniques of generation and manipulation of images. In his work is the “memory of painting” which is inherited and underlines his digital production of images. Instead of condemning the medium of painting as obsolete, the artist highlights the remarkably intense linkage that contemporary digital art production maintains with it. Differently from Casselman who quotes a specific author and body of work, Hyo Myoung Kim seems interested in representing the medium (or the idea) of painting itself, an attempt that again dates back to the early abstract painting generation of artists like Kandinsky and Mondrian. At the same time, in works such as 20130822 lines 10000 swirl, (2014) and Accident is the only absolute, (2014) he realises a simulation of painting whichresults in a critique of it and of its rules as defined by the abstract avant-garde in the first half of the 20th century.
What the two authors have in common, besides the research which looks backwards, is the “Red Tape” as the title of the show suggests. In the curatorial context of the exhibition the bureaucratic term refers to the rules that past tradition imposes on contemporary art practice, yet also to those rules that lead the art market in general (the leadership of collectors, galleries, etc.). Both artists showcased at the Gazelli Art House have challenged the red tape as their predecessors did in modern times, imposing different rules to themselves in order to push the boundaries of the definition of art.
How do the artists challenge the notion of original and copy of artworks?