February 25 – April 15, 2016
Robert Rauschenberg and Brice Marden in Rauschenberg’s Lafayette Street kitchen, New York, 1968
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.
In the Making: Artists, Assistants, and Influence, a group exhibition that surveys the field
of artistic production through a series of juxtapositions that reveal discrete dialogues
between artists and their assistants both current and former.
The exhibition unfold like a wide-reaching family tree, pairing works by artists who have shared studio space at some point and engaged in working relationships. By bringing together new art with rarely seen historical works from artists’ studios and estates, In the Making suggests the social and intellectual interactions that fuel the production of art – interactions that take place behind the scenes and exert remarkable influence.
Artists with works on view include:
Ross Bleckner – Ryan Sullivan
Urs Fischer – Darren Bader
Robert Gober – Banks Violette
Edward Kienholz – Jack Goldstein – Ashley Bickerton
Donald Moffett – Julia Rommel
Richard Prince – Eric Brown
Robert Rauschenberg – Brice Marden, Dorothea Rockburne – Carroll Dunham
Joel Shapiro – Christopher Wool – Dan Crews, Alex Hubbard
Cindy Sherman – Margaret Lee
Andy Warhol – George Condo
In the Making is rooted in an interest in the changing conditions of artistic production since the breakdown of modernist tropes, and in particular the displacement of the artist as a sole individual creator. Culminating in the decade of the 1950s and embodied in the public image of such Abstract Expressionists as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, the art studio was romanticized as a mythical place for solitary contemplation where the genius artist – typically male – is able to express himself.
From the isolate studio to the expanded workshop
art historian Caroline A. Jones states in Machine in the Studio, starting in the 1960s in the United States there is a palpable shift “from the isolate studio (with its hushed privacy and creator-genius) to the expanded workshop (with its busy machinery and executive boss).” It is in the context of this newly established mechanical and social system of production that the figure of the artist assistant reap- pears in the discourse of art, having been largely absent from it since the days of the Renaissance workshop.
The new paradigm
Two historical anchors represent the paradigm shift of the artist’s studio in In the Making. One of these, Andy Warhol’s Factory, embodied the radical delegation of art-making to assistants in a systematic way, perhaps best epitomized by the assembly-line production of silkscreens. As Warhol remarked, “I tried doing them by hand, but I find it easier to use a screen. This way, I don’t have to work on my objects at all. One of my assistants or anyone else, for that matter, can reproduce the design as well as I could.” One of the assistants in charge of executing Warhol’s silkscreen and diamond dust prints for the Myths series (1981) was George Condo who, as a twenty-four-year old artist recently arrived in New York City, was just starting to find his own artistic footing. In the Making pairs an example from Warhol’s Myths series, a suite of ten portraits of cartoon figures and other cultural emblems, with a silkscreen by Condo that conveys his own hybrid style of the grotesque while reflecting the influence of his past mentor in surprising ways.
Artist: George Condo
The second historical anchor for In the Making is Robert Rauschenberg’s collaborative practice, which famously included assistants and friends Dorothea Rockburne and Brice Marden. On view in the exhibition are examples of Rauschenberg’s works from the Tablet series, comprising spare sheets of paper embossed atop cardboard, evoking the textured surfaces of nearby works by Rockburne and Marden. During a period when Rockburne was completing a body of process-based works made from chipboard stained with crude oil, her own assistant was Carroll Dunham, whose early paintings employed different types of industrial wood as support that, in their material investigations, harken back to this period. Examples from both bodies of work by Rockburne and Dunham are shown here.
Artists: 1) Robert Rauschenberg 2) Dorothea Rockburne 3) Carroll Dunham
Some of the connections traced by “In the Making” are familiar
While some of the connections traced by In the Making are familiar, others are less known. Seen together, the constellations of artworks and individuals suggest possible channels of influence, collaboration, and convergence. They raise questions about authorship and aura, and the sacredness of “the artist’s hand”. Considering the 15th century example of the head of an angel in Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ (1472-1475) that was famously painted by his workshop prodigy Leonardo da Vinci, we ask ourselves, does it change our understanding and appreciation of a contemporary artwork if we know that it was executed by an assistant whose own independent work we have come to associate with an altogether different approach? How do different notions of craft and technical execution stand in relation to artistic vision? And how do we chart directions and echoes of influence within the artist-and-assistant network?
Other highlights of “In the Making”
Among other highlights of In the Making is a photograph from Cindy Sherman’s Disasters and Fairytales series, featuring an inflated doll as an object hovering between the animate and the inanimate. This little known work inspired a new sculpture with surrealist underpinning by artist Margaret Lee, who has served as Sherman’s longtime assistant. Elsewhere in the exhibition, Robert Gober’s “dumb” piece of Plywood – a handmade object laboriously crafted to imitate a commercially available readymade – appears next to a stack of chairs by former Gober assistant Banks Violette. Cast in salt, Violette’s chairs continue the investigation into the potential for affect in everyday objects. Meanwhile, Urs Fischer’s installation of body orifices suspended from the ceiling, presented here for the first time in New York, receives a surprising digital extension in a new work by Darren Bader, Fischer’s former assistant and sometimes collaborator.
Artists: 1) Robert Gober 2) Banks Violette 3) Darren Bader
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