Entering Michael Riedel’s current exhibition at David Zwirner, visitors encounter an intriguing spatial arrangement, composed of abstract patterns blanketing gallery walls. Pulled from art material supplier BLICK’s website, the text, distorted to illegibility, is abstracted from its informative ends and transformed into purely graphical patterns. Barely comprehensible through a closer inspection, words listing different dimensions for canvases, or describing various color charts are no longer usable. Distortion of this conversation between information and its raison d’être commonly emerges in Riedel’s practice, bringing this dialogue into a reversed cycle, in which function becomes infertile and surplus conveys aesthetic.
The Frankfurt-based artist, who has been showing at David Zwirner for over a decade, has frequently bent the nature of data sets in parallel with its role as a visual communicator, always through the framework of technology. Compiled from various online or physical sources, Riedel’s point of entry is often stretched considerably from its original context, yet maintains adequate enough coherence to deliver on his emphatic abstraction. This data, losing its potency through exposure to various techniques of manipulation (excessive repetition and collaging in particular), transforms into a series of works that convey vaguely familiar, yet often opaque narratives. Thus, the artist’s attempt defies functional hand of commercial data, and furthermore ridicules its promise of easy consumption.
Varying in size and composition, the inkjet prints shown here, which Riedel digitally collaged with images of a BLICK plastic shopping bag and fossils grabbed from books, combine the banality of commodity culture and the rigidity of concrete information. Images of dinosaur or human fossils, shrouded by plastic shopping bags, tie into both ecological themes, and conflations of art material with subject matter, as if Riedel’s use of Blick’s catalog was inextricable from his final production.
The artist does not hesitate to parody contemporary methods of art making, modes which have ostensibly been changed by technological advancement. Dividing his surfaces into two parts, either horizontally or vertically, Riedel leaves room for contemplation and optic variation in each print. As a side note supplementing the artists’s urge for his audience to examine and contemplate, the German word blick translates into English as ‘gaze’.
Michael Riedel is on view at David Zwirner through March 25, 2016.
David Zwirner [Exhibition Page]