Continuing a particular and often challenging brand of conceptualism in the act of painting, artist Jonathan Monk opens a new show at Casey Kaplan this month, brought forth under the title These Paintings Should. Exhibiting a striking brand of wistful thinking, the exhibition is comprised of a collection of twelve acrylic-based paintings, each emblazoned with screen-printed text that differs from one to the next, always beginning with the phrase “This painting should ideally be hung…”. As such, each sets up an imagined reality by dictating a supposed “ideal” placement on the wall, offering an unexpected conversation with iconic artists—from Isa Genzken to Claude Monet and back.
Self-reference and appropriation echo throughout Monk’s practice, whose works can often be seen and experienced as a reaction to and in interaction with the art of peers he is most interested in. Monk never considers a work entirely concluded, preferring his output to exist as a limitless continuation of earlier projects, reinventing and reusing ideas of his own and more than occasionally the ideas of others. To Monk, the relationships between gallery and artist, collector and artist, as well as artist and artist, are as much materials to be experimented with as paint or a screen-printing press. Relationships and mediums are recontextualized and reinterpreted throughout Monk’s oeuvre, which traverses sculpture, photography, film, painting, and more, in a compounding number of ways.
For this show, the artist picks back up on previously explored notions of illustration and allusion, using screen-printed text and collaged elements to open up dialogues between gesture and movement, between space and time, artist and art. Ideally, This Painting (Basquiat Warhol), for instance, Monk’s mustard and fuchsia abstraction that includes a character from Seth MacFarlane’s animated sitcom, Family Guy, should be hung near a Jean-Michel Basquiat and opposite an Andy Warhol, but it could also be installed with nothing at all, or to the right of something else entirely. Monk initiates his own set of dictates, but leaves the final exhibition open. “Ideally,” he says, but the notion of just what ideal remains obtuse, obscured from view. One wonders if the artist is referring to the work’s presence in a world-class collection, or to a personal conversation he wants his work to open against the other artists’s works. No matter: much like Lawrence Weiner, even the idea itself creates a new space for consideration.
The show closes January 7th.
– D. Creahan
Jonathan Monk at Casey Kaplan [Exhibition Site]