In 1965 Donald Judd wrote his now seminal text ‘Specific Objects’, a descriptive that he also applied to his own freestanding sculptural works. Judd’s text attempted to chart the divergent tendencies and approaches to making art that the new generation of artists coming to prominence in the 1960s were adopting across America and Europe, marking out a new classification of works that that fell neither into the conventional categories of painting nor sculpture.
Acknowledging that this grouping of artists offered a multiplicity of practices, of which “[t]he common aspects are too general and too little in common to define a movement”, Judd’s text attempts to describe the characteristics of specificity, singleness, wholeness and directness that these works shared in common. For Judd, inherent to the exploration of these aspects was the creation of distinct temporalities in works, and credible experiences for the viewer.
While Judd’s peer group offered a broad range of practices, it was their use of materials, especially the contemporaneously ‘new’ materials such as Formica, aluminium, rolled steel and Perspex that Judd identified as being a unifying factor in their work. Central to Judd’s interest in ‘Specific Objects’ – both in terms of his text and own work – was the adoption and testing of materials, which were often pushed to their limits, along with a slippage between the boundaries of what might have been historically considered as being painting or sculpture.
Judd’s text contributed to the rupture with medium specificity attributed to formalism, with its analysis of how a work is made and looks, as developed by Roger Fry and Clive Bell, and further expanded by Clement Greenberg along with other American critics. The rejection of illusionism and the sanctity of specific media and modes of making such as painting and sculpture that Judd’s generation ushered in, which was later reinforced by the discourses of post-modernism, is an approach that we are now very familiar with in relationship to contemporary practice.
For the purposes of this exhibition, it is Judd’s interest in both the material characteristics of the artwork and the porous boundary between painting and sculpture that is explored. Focusing on a more recent generation of artists that have grown-up with an expanded view practice, and an accelerated dissemination and circulation of images through the Internet, ‘Image Object’ brings together the work of recent New Contemporaries’ alumni Nicolas Deshayes, Rowena Harris, Raphael Hefti, Yelena Popova, and Emanuel Röhss with Artie Vierkant.
‘Image Object’ borrows its title from Vierkant’s text ‘The Image Object Post-Internet’, in which he describes the conditions whereby art is made in response to the Internet as a given, rather than as an innovation. The pervasiveness of the Internet and social media now means that there has been a proliferation of images that are shared and distributed at an accelerated rate. In the context of artistic production this means that an image of a work can be more widely circulated and viewed than the original. Vierkant writes “Post-Internet is defined as a result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials.”
This exhibition, which exists only as an online platform, aims to map out not only the material qualities of work, but also a state of flux whereby works exist in a network of relations; slipping between being painting, sculpture and image, loosing their 3-dimensional qualities.
Nicolas Deshayes, Raphael Hefti and Emanuel Röhss explore the metaphysical qualities of matter. Using industrial processes they test and transform materials to explore their relationship to the human body and our environment. In Yelena Popova’s moving image work our relationship to the material world is explored in a different form. While Rowena Harris and Artie Vierkant explore the online and offline experience of viewing work to question the value of both experiences and of digital images themselves.