In American painting from Andy Warhol to Christopher Wool, the printed mark is qualified by the painterly gesture, the slippage, the glitch, the graffito. These binaries have proved astonishingly productive. Wade Guyton extends this lineage so neatly he might have been dreamed up by an art historian. His medium is modern inkjet printing; horizontal bands of inks that form the structural basis of this technology double as a formalist abstract structure as they incrementally darken white-primed canvas ground. Typically Guyton’s work is exhibited in a series of evenly spaced, upright rectangles, all the same size, lining a gallery’s wall like elegantly lowered blinds. A break in the print run, a coerced slip in the printer’s regular feed, functions as a fissure of light, an assertion of willful composition over the repetitive mechanical process.
In Berlin, 15 vitrines were installed, each approximately 15 feet long, their white bodies and black legs appearing designed to reflect the modernist interior of Capitain Petzel’s gallery. Groups of what Guyton refers to as “drawings” were laid inside the vitrines over a grid of bright blue vinyl tiles, which apparently replicated those on Guyton’s kitchen floor. The drawings are, in fact, Guyton’s signature bands of ink, mostly black, occasionally translucent red or yellow, on already printed sheets of paper: pages cut, or roughly torn, from old art catalogues and modern furniture magazines. The inkjet printing qualifies the appropriated images—of Bauhaus chairs, Goya paintings, tulip arrangements, Paul Klee sunsets, Ab-Ex imitations—by selectively obscuring, erasing and staining. If a generic pattern is superimposed onto the particularities of the cultural past, active intervention also usurps the passivity of the sampled material. Guyton flattens his art historical references into pure design, the satiety of satiny surface. A few sheets have been printed with online ads for Apple computers, emphasizing—if you have not already gotten the point—that the broad spread of content homogenizes the clippings as cultural commodities.
Some of the vitrines were left empty, tipping the installation toward decor. In a few, the sheets had been swept aside into a disorderly pile in one corner. Guyton always retains a margin for controlled error, and yet this disruption was as much an element of design as the even distribution it contradicted. A layout vocabulary is dressed up in gestures that resemble modernist abstraction, with its transcendental ambitions. Inkjet printing, borrowed from bureaucracy, is cast as a metaphor for art as production. But this apparent cynicism never really threatens because it is clearly no more than a posture adopted by the decor, perhaps making it seem less self-indulgent, more edifying to its owner. The blue linoleum tiles claim the drawings for a residential destination and from a residential source, comprehending Guyton’s home, that of his collectors and the traffic in between. The gallery assistant explained to me that Guyton’s work is currently so salable that he might as well have a license to print money.