Between Art and Technology

by: Julia Cheung

October 9, 2012

For many modern artists, Wade Guyton’s work presents a point of contention. Just a decade into his career, Guyton has been producing work that is difficult to place. Critics often refer to his pieces as paintings, as they are produced with ink on linen typically purposed for oil paintings. At the same time, Guyton’s work blatantly lacks the inherent necessity of art – the human hand.

Wade Guyton OS is a mid-career survey of the artist, opened last Thursday at the Whitney. The exhibition features a decade of the artist’s work, most of which are composed by an Epson inkjet printer. The name itself is a nod to computer operating systems, the emblematic household technology of current times. His work is displayed in a series of parallel staggered wall panels – reminiscent of multiple windows open on a computer screen. Guyton’s early work feature pages ripped out from design books, with lines and Xs printed over them.  Much of his later work is characteristically marked by a crease in the center. In order to produce paintings of a substantial width, Guyton folds the canvas and feeds it into the printer twice – creating an asymmetric painting, both sides rarely in sync.

But is this justifiable as art? Moreover, is it even justifiable as technology, as many are touting it as? Contextualized in the technology of today, can an inkjet printer be considered technology anymore than a paint brush?

Notably, Guyton’s work consists of more than slapping some X onto Microsoft Word and hitting print. In his work, Guyton establishes his fascination with the disconnect between artistic intentions and the shortcomings of technology. The linen which Guyton uses is thicker than what is intended for the printer, and as such, often gets stuck, forcing Guyton to tug at the linen and overprint his mistakes. His compositions feature smears and clogs of ink dripping down – a documentation of the technological process. Through repetition, the fading of ink marks the passing of time, as well as its exhaustive wear on the printer.

In fact, it bares comparison to Korean artist, Lee Ufan - who also documents the passing of time through repetition – only his work is in fact painted by hand, and seeing it, the viewer feels the intensity of the concentration. Guyton’s work doesn’t quite provoke the same reaction. For some, it doesn’t provoke any reaction. But as something that is neither a product of art nor technology – at least not decidedly – it raises some interesting questions. It’s just one of those things you’ll have to see for yourself.


Guyton OS is on view at the Whitney through January 13, 2013. 



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