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Home » Publications » Catalogue Excerpts » For Example (Butler, Clark Espinal, Gerken)

For Example (Butler, Clark Espinal, Gerken)

For Example (Butler, Clark Espinal, Gerken)

by Micah Lexier

One of my earliest visits to MSVU Art Gallery was in March of 1983 to install my work for the exhibition Appropriation/Expropriation. This was a show of recent work by Halifax artists who shared the then current strategy of employing appropriated imagery. I remember it as a very politicized time; we were a serious bunch and when you “borrowed” imagery it was often to scathingly critique it. Twenty-six years later I am returning to MSVU Art Gallery to present a different take on work made with appropriated imagery. Each of the artists in this exhibition makes interventions into existing situations or alters objects, not to critique them but to make something new of them. What unites these three artists is just how simple their interventions are and how with the tiniest gestures they find ways to delight, intrigue and surprise us.

One of my favourite quotations is Albert Einsteinís "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” The three For Example artists are consistent proponents of this maxim, but none takes it more to heart than Ingo Gerken. Gerkenís photographs are deceptively simple and are often made by holding an object in space with one hand while photographing it with his other. By carefully planning and choosing his objects and situations, Gerken has created some of the most delightfully surprising images. Despite their resemblance to one-liner jokes, one cannot help but marvel at the artistís ingenuity and intelligence. For this exhibition Gerken is presenting each photograph along with the object that appears in that photograph. Not only does this tactic show the intervening object in its actual size, it also allows us a glimpse behind the magicianís curtain. However there is no trick to such photographs ó they are simply the products of an inventive, original mind.

Panya Clark Espinalís contribution to this exhibition is a series of books that she has altered with numerous pinpricks. These works are based on the eleventh lesson or Ďgiftí of Friedrich Froebelís teaching system. Froebel is credited as the inventor of Kindergarten. In the 1830s he developed an educational system for teaching children about art, design, mathematics and natural history using a series of lessons and manipulations of building blocks and other materials. Clark Espinal was intrigued with the similarity between these learning systems and certain abstract and modernist imagery; she undertook a number of Froebelís lessons as a way of investigating this relationship. One result is this series of found books that she has manipulated in response to the 11th lesson, “Pricking”. The pinpricks both deface and alter the pages, creating wondrously fascinating objects. While Clark Espinal originally undertook the lesson as an exercise, it is easy to see how seductive and transformative this simple act can be.

Paul Butler has created a beautiful new installation for this exhibition based solely on the act of removal, literally cutting out the texts from a series of twelve Artforum ads. This simple gesture reveals the architecture of each ad. His type-free pages remind me of the painted rectangles covering graffiti on the sides of buildings. This is the same principle that Butler employs when creating his works. He removes all the existing text by cutting a rectangle that is just slightly larger than the text block itself. In the process a drawing is revealed. The image that Butler provides for this brochure documents the making of one of his works. It is highly revealing because you see not only a finished piece but his tools for making the work (the cutting surface, knife and straight edge) and many of the excised words as well. It is a complex image that contradicts the simplicity of the final works themselves. In showing us his working process, he echoes Gerkenís impulse to reveal a bit of the magic.



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