Continuing its Philip Guston season, Timothy Taylor is pleased to announce the group exhibition Substance, which takes as its point of departure the “meat and potatoes” of Guston’s layered, visceral paintings [illustrated in Mark Leckey’s Cinema in the Round (2008)*] and then goes on to explore the idea of substance in art from different points of view.
Through an eclectic mix of artists and works, the exhibition’s title and premise also acknowledges the quasi- greatest hits structure of the highly acclaimed Factory Records releases by New Order, Substance (1987) and Joy Division, Substance (1988). By deconstructing and exploring the possibilities of the term, this exhibition brings together a thoughtful compilation of substance art.
Guston asserted that a finished work of art is simply the remnants of a process: “What is seen and called the picture is what remains – an evidence.” Taking Guston’s cue with regard to material experimentation and process, the exhibition begins with a series of works by artists who explore image-making through a performative play with materials, while simultaneously engaging larger subjects around human existence and personal history. Artists Antoni Tàpies, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Armen Eloyan, Chris Martin and Eddie Martinez manipulate materials to hover between visceral figuration and abstraction.
Questioning the ‘substance’ of painting also demands contemplation on the two/ three-dimensionality of the physical object; as in the toothpaste and chocolate paintings by Kelley Walker, the sculptural grids of Ding Yi, and the wax paintings of Nick Theobald. These artists use substance in order to abstract. In Walker’s paintings the use of toothpaste or chocolate obscures images so as to create new and multifarious meaning. while in Ding’s grids, paint is built up so excessively that it becomes architectural. Theobald’s sumptuous paintings made from relief-printing with textiles in beeswax use their substance from various organic derivations, in order to create gradations of different pigments.
A tangible manifestation of the Guston aftermath is perhaps best exemplified in the Pea-Roe-Foam works of Jason Rhoades, where object, language and symbol have become amalgamated into a “brand new product and revolutionary material”, which the artist used to create art objects, among other things. A similar utilisation of substance can also be seen in Ed Ruscha’s gunpowder painting, Zhang Huan’s ash painting and Georg Herold’s caviar painting.
Similarly, Matthew Brandt’s photographs utilise substance as both image and process, incorporating components of his subjects into the photographic method used to produce the works. In the artist’s Lakes and Reservoirs series, for example, the colour photographs are soaked in the specific lake or reservoir water that they represent.
The chemical element intrinsic to photography then extends the trajectory of Substance towards connotations of the illicit, more literally found in recent magazine paintings by Mat Collishaw, Damien Hirst’s Controlled Substance Key Painting (1994) and Taryn Simon’s Contraband (2009).
The effects of illicit substances are implied in the psychedelic etchings of Volker Hüller, and the paintings of Daniel Richter. In particular, Richter’s painting offers us the opportunity to see through substance. The tradition of painters bestowing us with the power to access what is normally impenetrable once again leads us back to Guston, who imbues us with an alternative power of seeing – through substance into the political.
Collectively, the works in this exhibition, while disparate, share a specific quality: what Leckey identifies as excess and present-ness, about “soup that eats like a meal”.