For one who has found the mirrored floors and cameraless photography of Walead Beshty to be heavy on concept but light on visual reward, this show came as a welcome surprise. A sojourn in Mexico seemed to have enlivened Beshty’s work, which is socially and politically astute but at times esthetically bloodless.
Several new sculptures were made from cast-off vases, bowls, statues, and even artworks from Cerámico Suro in Guadalajara—a factory whose owner has been inviting artists to produce multiples there since 1993. Piled up into mounds, the colorful pottery fragments were unified by slopping glazes over their tops and refiring them. These cheery messes, set on pedestals, exuded an unexpected, gooey charm. Mexican culture also inspired the cut-up Spanish-language newspapers hanging from thin metal rods like ragged semaphores.
Both the ceramic works and the mutilated newspapers tied in with Beshty’s ongoing interest in the evidence of labor—whether his own or that of others—in art production, an interest that could be seen in other works here. Several 10-by-5-foot panels of sheet copper, folded in ways that nodded to Minimalism and hung at awkward angles in the gallery, were covered with the handprints of those who installed them. More ghostly handprints blotched Beshty’s striated Cross-Contaminated RA4 Contact Prints (2014), left there by the people who produced the images. Also referencing the physical process of making and installing Beshty’s art were black-and-white photographs of the hands of gallery employees and studio assistants.
Less impressive were installations featuring old computers and printers skewered by metal rods and plugged into outlets so that they operated intermittently. These were a logical extension of Beshty’s earlier series made with an outdated, error-prone color processor, but were not as thought-provoking as those pieces bearing the traces of bodies and their actions.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 105.