The artist’s current exhibition of new work at the gallery’s 19th Street space makes up for its minimal catalog in conceptual clout, examining the construction of narrative and spatial interactions through a coyly designed exhibition plan that shifts in theme and semiotic interaction based on the viewer’s position.
The exhibition is composed of a series of variations on Williams’s ongoing fascination with the value of the image, and its role as a circulator of information and ideology in contemporary capitalism. During the construction of the show, or rather, the deconstruction of the prior show, Marcel Dzama’s Une Danse de Bouffons, Williams elected to remove several dividing walls, and, rather than remount them seamlessly, left them standing solitary, bearing the scars of their removal. As a result, the exhibition is divided by a series of walls that seem to have slightly broken free in the exhibition space, a peculiar visual phenomenon that also serves as one of the core conceits for the artist’s work.
Christopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Gray) 1967 Citroen DS Serial number: DS851360a Color code: AC 226 Color name: gris satiné Color year: 1964 Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf November 3, 2013, 2014 Inkjet print on cotton rag paper 20 x 25 inches (50.8 x 63.5 cm ) WILCH0415 (2014) via Art Observed
Regarding the photography itself, the artist follows a set of previously explored techniques with new angles. In one series, he photographs camera lenses cut cleanly in half, underscoring the complexity of a mechanism often left unseen, but wholly complicit in delivering the image itself to the viewer. In another, Williams photographs damaged car headlights, but shot after replacing all damaged parts and re-painting the car carefully so that only a peculiar, subtle bent can be detected, an inflection that remains buried underneath the aura of newness.
The third combines an image of a chicken, inspired by the fringe market for poultry appreciation magazines and the linguistic tropes these magazines have established for themselves, with a carefully manipulated magazine advertisement for dish soap with all evidence of food removed, leaving a clean, confusing pan in a pristine environment.
Christopher Williams, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 Focal length: 135 mm Aperture range: 4 – 22 Number of elements/groups: 4/4 Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity Angle of range: 18 degrees Filter thread: 39 mm Weight: 405 g Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm Manufacturer part number: 11850 Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf March 14, 2013, 2014 Inkjet print on cotton rag paper 7 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches (43.8 x 55.6 cm) WILCH0427 (2014), via Art Observed
Placing these three sets of pieces along calculated sight lines, Williams’s manipulated walls effectively break the space of the room into various thematics based on the viewer’s position. Depending on position, the viewer may contend with the camera alongside an image of the chicken, or perhaps the broken headlight in all of its cosmetic interference alongside a shining pan. In each intersection, the idea of publication and the editorial decision, the act of depiction and its formatting within certain standards, takes a prominent role.
Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 July 20, 2014, 2014 Selenium toned gelatin silver print 22 x 18 1/4 inches (55.9 x 46.4 cm) WILCH0459 (2014) via David Zwirner
Williams is also exhibiting a series of inversions on the notion of the exhibition catalog, in which images and text are merely replaced with color-coded pages, as well as Printed in Germany, a remarkably comical book that is completely blank saved for the aforementioned words printed on the back cover (apparently a requirement for the books to be shipped out of the country). Bearing only a single mark of international exchange, the book renders all content visually obsolete, underscoring only its place of origin.
Williams’s exhibition is small, but packs a hefty punch, allowing the construction of the image within a fixed context to underscore and emphasize the methods and modes of image production today. The show is on view through December 20th.
— D. Creahan
Christopher Williams at David Zwirner [David Zwirner]