Opening June 21 at the Art Center CA2M Dos de Mayo in Madrid.
Walead Beshty’s works remind us how important it is to appreciate the transitory nature of daily life, especially its gaps, its pauses, and its moments of in-betweenness. This in-between time has always been central to his work. In his early works the theme of ‘in-betweenness’ is literally represented in the sites he chose to photograph.
His Excursionist Views (2001–2005) show failed, depopulated modernist housing developments that sit precariously between evacuation and demolition, Island Flora (2005) documents the plants, weeds, and vegetation contained within isolated highway medians that, left to their own devices, have grown unruly, while the series of photographs of abandoned shopping malls, titled American Passages (2001–ongoing), present the mercantile and capitalistic nightmare of empty, closed shops. These three projects all confront the urban landscape as a problem of ‘in-betweenness,’ depicting locations trapped in a state of geographic and temporal limbo, neither fully abandoned, nor actively integrated into the urban context. More recently, this engagement with the in-between has grown into a means of production, making use of such mundane procedures as air travel or sending a package, activities that usually recede into the background of an artist’s productive life. All of these in-between instants, forgotten o forgettable moments, produce a huge parabola with the work in art field: a useless space per se but fit for thoughts and reflections.
Exploring various issues associated with photographic representation, specifically transparency, Walead Beshty's resulting works both revisit and complicate early modernist practices. While homages to influential figures such as László Moholy-Nagy can be found in his Pictures Made by My Hand with the Assistance of Light (2006)—which were based on an apocryphal story of a missing body of Moholy-Nagy’s work—these references appear in more subtle ways in works such as Dust (2009) (2010), or Six Color Loop (CMYRGB: Irvine, California, July 16th 2008, Fuji Crystal Archive Type C) (2009).
Beshty’s photograms attempt to demystify photography and create a more lineal story –mine the gaps in its historical narrative; the paper and its folds serve both as an expression of photographic materiality and as an exploration of photography’s technological development. How a work is produced and by whom is vital for Beshty, and since 2005 his works reveal their productive processes both in their form and in their titles. In Travel Pictures (2006/2008) he discovered how he could work productively with issues of chance within the production of photographs. After realizing how his unexposed film was affected by passing it through the high-powered X-ray machines at the airport, Beshty began to use travel as part of his work. What at first seemed to be simply discolored damage left on his film (a side effect of the Xray machines) developed into an ongoing multifaceted body of work in which the situations surrounding the work—the production or shipment of the artwork and the travel an artist engages in—were directly manifest, pushing his investigation of transparency into new territories.
These ideas extend to the sculptural works included in the exhibition, such as his Fed Ex works which are titled according to their travel from exhibition to exhibition, for example 20-inch Copper (FedEx® Large Kraft Box ©2005 FEDEX 330508), International Priority, Los Angeles–Tijuana trk# 865282058011 October 28–30, 2008, International Priority, Tijuana–Los Angeles trk# 867279774929 January 2–6, 2009, International Priority, Los Angeles–London trk# 867279774881 January 14–16, 2009 (2008–), and the copper table tops especially created for the CA2M which oxidize as they are used by the staff and public of the institution. The current exhibition is an extension of Beshty’s approach.
Using the intersections between the three overlapping grid systems present in the floor plan of the CA2M, Beshty will design an exhibition that has both a physical and conceptual experience of “in-betweenness” evidenced in the sharp angles, abrupt turns, and off-kilter placements of the walls. In each of these instances, the artwork is inextricable from the incidental circumstances of its making (be it time, travel, or light) and the conditions under which it is viewed. Whether it be in sculptural, photographic, or architectonic form, Beshty’s work maintains a commitment to the political and material condition of artwork by constantly re-imagining the world around us.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: He was born in London in 1976. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
COPRODUCED BY: Malmö Konsthall
Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo
Avda. Constitución 23 28931 Móstoles, Madrid
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