Three Colts Gallery, Nov – Dec 2004
Although ‘Art News’ gathered together contemporary artists working with newspaper, it was remarkably free from the anxiety of influence. The newspaper figured here not as ephemera or found object, but rather as medium, with artists remaining within the page layout or using it as (literal) material. Melanie Jackson fashioned a grey spindly cactus out of newspaper pulp, while Amikam Toren pulped stock quotes and bad news from Iraq to create a blurry Ad Reinhardt. Alternate newspaper universes abounded: Kim Rugg rearranged the letters of the Guardian so that the paragraphs were long alphabets rather than meaningful sentences. In Alex Hamilton’s wonderful renderings of front pages, penned hieroglyphs stood in place of text, replacing anonymous authority with idiosyncratic doodles. Eva Weinmayr painted Formula One racing-car paint onto newsprint, literalising the idea of an ‘opposite’ page by foregrounding what newspapers are not: beautiful, iridescent, a-functional.
The assumed contrast between the visual and the textual was best illustrated by Martin Creed, who played the two off each other to question the association of text with information and form with abstraction. Creed showed ‘A’ through ‘I’ of a series commissioned by The Independent, which printed a single letter each day in the front section. The work transformed the basic building block of newspaper information – its letters – into pure shapes, and shapes whose meaning derived only from their place in the pre-formed series.
The show’s curator, Hugh Mendes, diverged from the dominant focus on medium to approach content with Levinian concerns of mediation and appropriation, with Richter-like paintings of obituaries of intellectual dignitaries: Jacques Derrida, John Coplans, Henri Cartier-Bresson. The painted scraps of newspaper, depicted with torn edges and a shadow on the canvas, set the obituaries’ subjects at three levels of remove – in the photograph, the photograph’s reprint and the painted representation.
Given the art world’s recent saturation with political messages, it was surprising that the show withheld any critique of the newspapers place in the public sphere or systems of power. Depending on how you felt about the last few festivals and biennials, ‘Art News’ was either a relief or a strangely averted opportunity.
Melissa Gronlund, ‘contemporary’, Issue 70