signed with artist's signature; titled 'Before the Invention of Death' in English; dated '10' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
200 x 600 cm. (78 3/4 x 236 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2010
Private Collection, Asia
Seoul, Korea, Ieyoung Contemporary Art Museum, Rebirth of Opticality, 25 October 2013 - 28 April 2014.

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Lot Essay

Born in Korea in 1972, Jin Meyerson is currently based in Hong Kong, after spending time working in New York, Paris, and Seoul. He received his BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1995, and his MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1997. Recognized for his integral contributions to the revival of figurative painting, he has been included in landmark exhibitions from “The Triumph of Painting” at the Saatchi Gallery to “Hue & Cry” curated by Vladimir Roitfeld. His work draws on the legacies of abstraction by reworking images drawn from the media, which he distorts, recolors, stretches, shrinks, and otherwise translates into the language of painting.

Over the past few years it has become the effective consensus that we have entered a moment of postinternet culture. That is to say, the art of the present is produced, circulated, and received as much through networked mechanisms of reproduction and distribution as it is through the more traditionally established channels of contemporary art. One of the most fruitful conversations that has opened up within this historical period is that of the digital similitude of painting. It implies that painting as a studio practice has become vastly more diverse in terms of media and approach than its name would suggest, incorporating a broad range of devices and imaging techniques on which it both comments and builds versions of possible futures.

Jin Meyerson, who works unequivocally within the practice of studio painting, offers an unorthodox window into the recent history of this cultural evolution. Crucially, he operates in what might be called a traditional studio, executing compositions in stages from a sketch and silhouette to working horizontally on texture and finally to the refinement of detail on a vertical surface. At each one of these junctures, however, the technological milieu of everyday image transmission plays a key role. Source images, eventually collaged into a combined composition, are first located through a process of online archival image searches. Unlike so many artists working with the idea of digital imagery in painting, Meyerson’s process of selection is neither random nor particularly focused on its networked aspects; instead it is almost purely instrumental, and relies heavily on the eye of the painter in a much more traditional way. This allows his practice to build a visually expansive reality around imagery that allows for considerable leeway.

Supporting the notion of the role of play and development throughout the course of composition and execution, Meyerson’s practice does not involve a simply linear narrative process of the selection of an image and its production in painting. Instead, the composition varies drastically over time as the work is produced, and the sketch itself is subject to major alterations over time, often incorporating transitions that involve the repainting and realignment of entire segments of the original painting. This is possible because he conceives of each work in terms of layers numbering in the dozens, at the very least. If this vocabulary seems reminiscent of Photoshop and other graphic design terminology, it certainly should. Meyerson was one of the earlier painters to engage with such software technologies in a rigorous way, and worked intensively with Photoshop manipulation techniques during the early 2000s. After 2005, in order to distance himself from the inbuilt tools of branded software, Meyerson began to produce a wider range of effects by manipulating his sketches manually, most notably by printing them and dragging or spinning the prints across the bed of a scanner, thus accomplishing similar glitch effects but tying them to performative actions rather than digital simulations. In the epic piece Before the Invention of Death (Lot 15) featured here, for instance, urban forms are mashed together in a way that could, at first, seem almost random; when the human eye is able to see as a machine, however, one might be able to disentangle edges and lines such that imagery - albeit never original-becomes apparent. This is a form of abstraction that seeps out from the crevices where digital photography meets manual composition, recreating a fundamentally new image that diverges from both categories of source material.

As the sense of urgency in critical conversations around painting increasingly shifts to this territory of the digital, including aspects of both composition and circulation, Meyerson offers a plea for what painting represents in terms of the value of composition and material above and beyond the abstracted set of marks and maneuvers otherwise reified in the current discourse. By insisting on retaining certain traditions in terms of studio practice - not to mention a very particular threshold for what it means to select subject matter and use it to compose a picture plane - the artist is able to incorporate social aspects of painting into the medium’s evolution into new conceptual territories, suggesting that the meaning of the genre lies not only in reference to color, line, texture, and material, but also in the formations of influence and discussion around these elements. The stakes are clear: that, for painting to truly play a role in ongoing thinking about media and image, its social nature must be respected.

This text is revised from “Stacks of Screen and Layers of Canvas: Painting as a social practice and the construction of the image after the ubiquity of graphic software” by Robin Peckham

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