• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12151

    Bound to Fail

    8 May 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 16 A

    Wade Guyton (B. 1972)

    Untitled

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Wade Guyton (B. 1972)
    Untitled
    signed and dated 'Wade Guyton 2008' (on the overlap)
    Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen
    93 ¼ x 55 in. (236.8 x 139.7 cm.)
    Executed in 2008.


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    "What initially drew me towards art was the fact that it was engaged with language and that this language and these structures seem to always be in a state of fortification and dismantling. Growing up I was never good at art classes, and when I was younger I was often bored with the purely visual or the impulse to render images through drawing or painting." Wade Guyton

    "Guyton’s work represents the real America in reduced form. Imagine: Malcolm X, Andy Warhol and Donald Judd; mega-church pastors, Jerry Springer and mainstream politics; urban decay and the security industry all sliced and diced down to their lowest common denominator and blended together, and that may very well be what Wade Guyton has captured in his stark and haunting work." Eric C. Shiner

    Untitled is the record of an epic conflict between artist, canvas and medium. Wade Guyton, arch alchemist of 21st century life, subjects the grand promises of modernism and technology to magnificent failure. Choking his Epson Stylus Pro 9600 inkjet printer with primed linen, he creates a bipartite black monolith: the sharp central fissure is an artefact of his need to fold his desired width of material in two in order to run it through the printer, the machine’s physical limitations fracturing the art object with tectonic force. In his radical dethronement of traditional painting, Guyton allows the imperfections of mechanical process to inflect the work’s surface with almost human painterly touches: drips, smears, cracks and creases are born of the overtaxed printer’s juddering application of ink. “This is a recording process as much as a production process,” Guyton has said. “And I have to live with it, smears and all” (W. Guyton, quoted in C. Vogel, “Painting, Rebooted, ” New York Times, 27 September 2012). These battle-scarred black fields are further engulfed with the overlay of ethereal, monochrome flames, a visual hallmark taken from the cover of Stephen King’s 1980 novel Firestarter. A voracious reader, Guyton brings the eighties prerogatives of the Pictures Generation and appropriation art into conversation with stark minimalist archetype and pulpy, printed illustration. Blurring the frontier between control and accident, Guyton’s tenets of glitch and immolation bring his artistic decision-making and the automatic will of technology into the same creative space. The ghost in the machine and the spirit of the artist both bring life to a phenomenal object that resonates with all the abjection, aspiration and beauty of modern existence.

    As he often attests, Guyton has never liked to draw or paint. “What initially drew me towards art was the fact that it was engaged with language and that this language and these structures seem to always be in a state of fortification and dismantling. Growing up I was never good at art classes, and when I was younger I was often bored with the purely visual or the impulse to render images through drawing or painting” (W. Guyton, quoted in S. Simoncelli, “Wade Guyton in conversation with Silvia Simoncelli,” ONCURATING, Issue 20, October 2013, p. 35). He first began to develop his signature vocabulary with the inkjet printer in 2003, printing black Xs over torn-out pages from books and magazines: he noticed that despite the simplicity of the shapes and letters that he could print using a mere tap on his keyboard, the result was never a slick digital production but instead bore the marks of error and breakage. Here was a stark register of the uneasy, uneven interface between the digital and manual, the virtual and literal. “There is evidence of this struggle in the work, in its surface. I’ve been putting different kinds of material through my inkjet printer and there are lots of fuck ups in the printing, the inkjet heads get snagged, ink drips, the registration slides. I’m also just making dumb marks – lines, Xs, Us, squares, monochromatic shapes that don’t require the complexity of the photo printer technology – and it’s interesting how the printer can’t handle such simple gestures” (W. Guyton, quoted in “A Conversation about Yves Klein, Mid-Century Design Nostalgia, Branding, and Flatbed Scanning” in Guyton\Walker: The Failever of Judgement, exh. cat., Midway Contemporary Art, St. Paul, MN, 2004, p. 49). Much as Warhol before him explored the power of mass image iteration through his slipping, fading screenprints, in inkjet printing Guyton has found a distilled graphic mode for laying bare the technological and ideological superstructures of today.

    For all these works’ apparent asceticism or even bleakness, their essential elements reveal a bricoleur’s joy in appropriation and recombination. Abstracted from their original context, the flames in particular are an incandescent rejection of the austere tone of much slick conceptual art, both deepening the formal implications of Guyton’s process and injecting pyrotechnic pictorial appeal. As the artist recalls, the suggestion of heat has a primal, bodily analogue that enhances the works’ man/machine hybridity. “Fire is always captivating. I thought of it as romantic, but camp. Destructive, but also generative. And of course hot. There’s a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings, which I didn’t predict, in the way the ink drips and runs. The first time I printed the fire on linen was one of those brutally humid New York summer nights. No AC in the studio. I was sweating and the paintings were melting” (W. Guyton, quoted in interview with D. De Salvo, in Wade Guyton OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 204). Underlining this very modern physio-technological encounter, Guyton’s recent Whitney Museum retrospective was titled Wade Guyton OS: a knowing conflation of artist and computer operating system.

    Though he may seem to strike a tone of studied irreverence, Guyton’s practice is indebted to a profound understanding of art history. He first moved to New York in 1996, having grown up, like his friend and frequent collaborator Kelley Walker, in Tennessee; while studying at Hunter College, he worked for seven years as a guard at the Dia Art Foundation in Chelsea. The echoes of the Minimalist work that he saw there by Donald Judd and Dan Flavin abound in his oeuvre, while the Modernist aesthetics of Frank Stella further advance his revolutionary destabilising of the line between painting and object. In his tackling of reproduction and erasure Guyton treads the same ground as contemporary master Christopher Wool: Wool’s haunting palimpsests also conjure the gestural from the mechanical, and both artists make use of oblique textual elements as a way of conveying the semiotic barrage of the urban environment. Today, Guyton’s own work stands alongside his preeminent forebears in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

    The word “technology” has its origins in the Ancient Greek tekhne, meaning “art,” “craft” or “skill”: its contemporary implications of inhumanity and cold, robotic intelligence are inescapably rooted in acts of human creation. In turn, the anthropomorphic, almost affectionate terms in which Guyton discusses the tug-of-war with his Epson make manifest the humanising of machines. “Fabric is tricky because it bunches, so you have to trick the printer into thinking that it’s printing on something else. Because it has a sensor, it actually can figure out what it’s not supposed to be printing on. …It does have problems, but I’ve figured out how to trick the machine. It normally only takes 44 inches, but I’m able to get it to do more with a little folding and tape. I pretty much have to coax it into printing” (W. Guyton, quoted in D. Armstrong, “Wade Guyton,” Interview Magazine, June-July 2009, p. 81). Guyton out-manoeuvres the printer, transcending its programmed purposes even as he exposes its abject inadequacies. If Untitled seems a funereal presence in its gestures toward destruction, failure and disorder, it is also a celebration: a haphazard, majestic spectacle of human will and the chimeric new life of the modern image.

    Special Notice

    On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

    Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.


    Provenance

    Petzel Gallery, New York
    Private collection, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Literature

    B. Nickas, Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting, London, 2009, pp. 292 and 294 (illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    Torino, Torino Triennale 2008: 50 Moons of Saturn, November 2008-February 2009, p. 472.