WADE GUYTON (B. 1972)
WADE GUYTON (B. 1972)
WADE GUYTON (B. 1972)
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WADE GUYTON (B. 1972)

Untitled

Details
WADE GUYTON (B. 1972)
Untitled
Epson ultrachrome inkjet on linen
84 x 69 in. (213.4 x 175.3 cm.)
Executed in 2007.
Provenance
Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007

Brought to you by

Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Head of 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

A groundbreaking figure of contemporary painting and post-conceptual art, Wade Guyton has such a handle of art history that he has remixed and revitalized it. His Untitled, which the artist considers a painting despite being created solely by a printer, exhibits his signature X motif. It is both a negation and an entryway into a new world, through which Guyton leads us with humor and innovation. Like Dada or Situationist International, Guyton uses ephemeral and previously unconsidered materials, most notably industrial inkjet printers, in order to upend expectations about art’s circulation in the world. Moving between growth and decomposition, accident and purpose, Guyton’s Untitled reminds us that art and life are always in process.

Guyton’s X works, originally printed on appropriated books and magazines, is distilled in Untitled, which becomes nearly spiritual and biomorphic in its evocative spareness. In the present example, the X is growing and regenerating with its top left arm becoming two, almost ready to split apart and grow into its own form. An X is also about space, a reference to the unknown or the infinite and children’s tales about pirates and buried treasure. Art historian Johanna Burton recalls the origin of the X paintings, “Ripping another page from his stack of magazines and books, he fed it through his home printer (this one little and cheap: an Epson, but no Ultra) after plugging in a ridiculously high point size and typing one giant letter into an otherwise blank Word document: X” (J. Burton, “Rites of Silence: The Art of Wade Guyton,” Artforum, Summer 2008, n.p., https://www.artforum.com/print/200806/rites-of-silence-the-art-of-wade-guyton-20387). Untitled is the culmination of this fundamental process, and while it is more sophisticated, it retains all the subversiveness of its original intention.

Guyton is considered one of the most important artists working through a reappraisal of late Modernist art, a shifting set of histories that include Fluxus, Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptualism. Guyton does not return to these movements in a purely ironic way, but rather with appreciation, especially since the iconic conceptual artist and sculptor Robert Morris was one of his professors at Hunter College in New York. As writer and curator Tim Griffin writes, “Guyton’s work…resuscitates a Minimalism whose heart is still beating under art history’s floorboards” (T. Griffin, “Tim Griffin on Wade Guyton, Artforum, January 2003, n.p., https://www.artforum.com/print/200301/tim-griffin-4067). The X of Untitled is exemplary here as it references a minimal vocabulary while suggesting something else is at play, with its slightly mismatched lines and marks resulting from the quirks of the printer. As with the minor changes inherent to Andy Warhol’s seemingly identical works, Guyton always introduces an element of chance by manipulating the linen support as it goes through the printer.

An appeal to past Modernisms is always an emotional venture, especially in the charged medium of painting, from which Guyton has never shied away. As the artist theorizes, there is a pathos in the negation implied by the X, “There is always some form of disappointment in making an artwork. In my case, there is some expectation, an attempt at translation. A struggle for some ideal—but that ideal may not always be clear, and it is likely in transition” (S. Simoncelli, “Interview with Wade Guyton,” On Curating, October 2013, n.p., https://www.on-curating.org/issue-20-reader/interview-with-wade-guyton.html#.YzL7Q-zMITU). The absolute zero of the X is never reached. Instead, in Untitled it appears as if it is ready to multiply or be translated into some other symbol. It does not fall apart into nothing or signify absence, but rather the possibility of plenitude within regimentation, as with Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, and Eva Hesse.

After quickly becoming an indispensable voice in painting throughout the 2000s, Guyton has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, including the Museum Ludwig in Cologne (2019), the Serpentine Gallery in London (2017), Kunsthalle Zürich (2013), and a celebrated mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2012). His work is also included in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In October 2022, the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland will present a selection of paintings.

While there is a certain irony in Guyton’s mute X, above all it is clear that he sincerely loves art history. His first job in New York, in fact, was as a museum guard at the Dia Art Foundation. Guyton therefore combines a critical eye with an appreciation of his predecessors and contemporaries, resulting in an empathetic, collaborative, and expansive practice that carries with it the remnants of what has come before, like a trail of pigment. Guyton’s use of techniques never before considered in painting reminds us that the past is always with us, ready to be repurposed for contemporary times.
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