Seth Price — Animation Studio
Past: October 23 → December 6, 2014
With his second show at Galerie Chantal Crousel, Seth Price continues to develop the body of works he debuted at dOCUMENTA (13) and has explored over the past two years, in which the motif of a standard business envelope is used to explore questions of inside and outside, folding and flatness, communication and concealment.
On display at the gallery are two distinct but related bodies of work. Price’s envelope pieces employ hand-modeled and pigmented polymer surfaces and screen-printing to create trompe-l’oeil images of torn envelopes on rough plywood. A piece of plywood, a piece of paper, an envelope: all embody the contradiction of being “wood products.” Wood is practically the very sign of organic nature, but in these products it has been subjected to industrial processing in order to yield some of the building blocks of contemporary society: plywood, the lowest and most fundamental of construction materials; paper, the empty ground for written or printed information; and envelopes, the containers that have traditionally disseminated information through the circuits of capital and culture.
The insides of business envelopes are normally printed with security patterns, all-over designs or logos printed so as to obscure the contents. Price’s envelopes have no contents and no insides; their photorealistic surfaces instead contain abstract blanks, devoid of message or pattern.
The envelopes’ interior patterns have been displaced to the second body of work on show here: large-scale photographic pieces, printed on wood-fiber veneer and mounted in rich walnut and mahogany frames. In shape and format these works are reminiscent of both business envelopes and computer screens. Price has produced all of the imagery himself, although it draws on existing motifs. Some works feature abstract designs based on traditional security patterns, while others feature the logos of modern corporations, including Dropbox, whose cloud storage service embodies our new postal and messaging system; Corbis, which licenses the digital circulation of art, illustration, and news imagery; and Pixar, the film studio which more than any other has helped to redefine cinema as a medium of digital animation. Taken collectively, the nine patterned works offer a photographic portrait of the life of information today: busy yet static, beautiful yet deadening, numbingly repetitive, filling our visual field to the point of collapse.
The exhibition title Animation Studio refers to the work of firms like Pixar and Disney, which seek to create an illusion of depth and volume on flat surfaces like screens. For Price, this activity evokes the mechanism of folding and securing a sheet of paper in such a way that it becomes an envelope: a 2D sheet is processed so that it functions as a 3D container. The animation studio’s aim—to create an illusion of life through processing—is also reminiscent of the way in which a viewer must animate the disparate pieces of an artwork or an exhibition, assembling a complex understanding from a group of mute images and objects