Given Cory Arcangel’s past exhibition tendencies, the work on view at the artist’s newest Team Gallery solo exhibition downtown is something of a concise affair. Gone are the artist’s abstracted consumer objects, video game hacks and gradient paintings, substituted for a series of simple flat-panel televisions, each bearing a pixelated digital image, and offset by a deep red carpeting that runs along the gallery’s floor. On-screen, the smiling faces of Hilary Clinton (or rather, Hilary Clinton’s book jacket), Jay-Z and P. Diddy, among others, stare out of the viewer, as a delicately waving digital effect below them gives the impression of a liquid reflection.
Not to say that show marks a strong departure from the artist’s ongoing practice, which seems to savor deep dives into the mainstream pop discourse for its subject matter and grounding. The works are a definite continuation of the artist’s interest in celebrity culture, public display and the image as exchange object in the digital economy. Almost every piece pulls its respective digital image from somewhere online, warts and all, with some (most notably Jay-Z’s picture with a completely pixelated companion) being almost beyond legibility.
As much as Arcangel is fascinated with the space of pop culture, his work here seems in equal measure an exploration of the digital image’s material grounds. Emphasized against the sharp contrast of the red carpet spanning the space, one is acutely aware of the HDMI cables and digital display boxes that litter the space below the hi-def televisions (some still bearing their commercial tags and stickers) that make the representation and circulation of these images possible. Digital materiality must still contend with the physical, in some way or another.
What’s more, these digital flaws and “artifacts” (as they’re ironically called) on-screen work against the peculiar sense of prestige implied by the exhibition carpeting, a tacky luxury icon that tries to reconcile the degraded nature of the image with its status as high art object. Even in their blurred, pixelated form, Arcangel leaves the viewer with no other option but the image within the contemporary art context. This distinction, then, allows an even more trenchant commenary on the format of celebrity in the age of rapid distribution. Not only do we get the celebrities we deserve, Arcangel seems to state, but we get the high-art portraiture we deserve as well.
tl;dr is on view through October 26th.
— D. Creahan
Cory Arcangel at Team Gallery [Exhibition Site]
Cory Arcangel [Artist’s Website]
Ryan McGinley & Cory Arcangel team up at Team gallery [Dazed]
Cory Arcangel’s 6-Foot-Tall Diddy Art Piece Is on Display at Team Gallery in New York [Complex]