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Alan Belcher’s Art Asks Questions America Can’t Answer

“Objects” marks Alan Belcher’s return to New York, after seventeen years and is made up of two sets of new oil paintings that both focus on the modern, globalized art market. On view at Marlborough Gallery on Broome St., Belcher’s new work calls attention to the nature of the art world, and further, the global market.

Alan Belcher, Objects, Installation View 10, 2014, Marlborough Broome Street, Photo Credit Bill OrcuttAll photographs by Bill Orcutt, courtesy Marlborough Chelsea, New York.

Called “10.5,” the small paintings are all the exact same size and share the same fundamental composition: a single Nike Sneaker perfectly centered in the square frame. Like Warhol did before him with his individual Campbell’s Soup can paintings, Belcher fills the space with small painting after painting depicting of the iconic sneakers. But unlike Warhol, Belcher doesn’t merely elevate the mundane, he makes sure to pick obscure collectible sneakers with rare color ways and designs, representing the feverish desire so many sneaker heads have when buying the obscure footwear.

While Belcher wants to discuss the insular nature of the art world with his work, the themes of the pieces also reflect upon something larger than just the fiscally minded art world. Belcher must understand the duality of his work, and the modern reality of corporate globalism, knowing that while so many American kids spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on each new pair of Nikes, a slew of Chinese kids on the other side of the globe are being paid pennies to put the Nike shoes together.

Alan Belcher, Objects, Installation View 11, 2014, Marlborough Broome Street, Photo Credit Bill Orcutt

Belcher goes one step further with this absurd dichotomy by hiring Chinese artists to paint each painting for him. He  then shrink wraps each painting to mirror the actual packaging of the real sneakers as though they were just another pair of shoes waiting to be sold.

Continuing in the second room, beyond the sneaker paintings, belcher has created a series of stock ticker paintings, which were also “manufactured” in China. The stock ticker paintings are immediately ugly, blunt recreations of info graphics you’d see on an economic update show on Fox News. The colors are slick yet somehow dull, as Belcher seems completely uninterested in making the paintings beautiful.

Alan Belcher, Objects, Installation View 17, 2014, Marlborough Broome Street, Photo Credit Bill Orcutt

These paintings underline America’s obsession with its corporate identity and captured the mountainous ranges of rising stock options at their staggered peaks. The artist crystallizes and forever immortalizes each company’s greed (from Coca-Cola to Campbell’s Soup) and wryly asks you to hang these corporate successes on your wall, as if they were worthy of such praise.

Alan Belcher, Objects, Installation View 4, 2014, Marlborough Broome Street, Photo Credit Bill Orcutt

Downstairs the gallery has included Belcher’s older work as a kind of bonus to the show. Belcher’s ceramic “Jpegs” are reliefs that depict the dog-eared jpeg file icon that we all see on our computer desktops complete with two same pictures featured on the blank page as they are on each tiny icon.

Though Belcher says his work represents the vacuous nature of the art gallery industrial complex, it’s hard not to see multiple meanings. His fascination with the every day sights is skewed away from the pop tradition to something curious and strange. With the new work found in “Objects,” and the older work shown below, Belcher has created a set of funny, sly think pieces that ask the viewer to confront their country’s obsession with money and upward mobility with a wink and a nod, because sometimes that’s all you can do.

Alan Belcher, Objects, Installation View 12, 2014, Marlborough Broome Street, Photo Credit Bill Orcutt

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“Objects” is currently on display at Marlborough Broome Street gallery from October 17th through November 16th.

text by: Peyton Freiman

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