AND is an exhibition of works from the collection affiliated with 601Artspace embodying the drive to accumulate, collect and display. The works in this exhibition are divided into three classifications: All, Archive and Accumulation. There is overlap between these three categories, but each way of working springs from a distinct urge.
All encompasses our drive to find completeness in an infinite world, exemplified by works that attempt to document every instance of an event or experience, to find and show every pertinent example. Archive is rooted in the search for order, invoking the sense of relief one feels after sorting and labeling the members of a set according to one’s own criteria. Accumulation reflects the urge to hoard, to pile, to put like with like. It hints at the belief that a single instance or object carries insufficient weight, and that more is more.
The works included in All can employ the strategies of analysis or synthesis; they can separate or combine. A work can be as analytic and direct as Charles Ray’s “All My Clothes” (1973), a row of deadpan photographs of the artist wearing what is presumably every article of clothing he owns. Or it can be cumulative, as in Idris Khan’s “Every Bernd and Hilla Becher Gale-Sided House” (2004), a single photograph comprised of all of the Bechers’ photographs of gale-sided houses exposed on top of one another, resulting in a sketchy blur in the vague shape of a house. All can also reflect a search for a more peculiar truth, as in Jennifer and Kevin McCoy's “How I Learned” (2002) in which the artists sort every shot in the seven-season run of the ‘70s television show “Kung Fu” into categories such as “How to Sit,” “How to Smoke,” or “How to Sneak and Hide,” according to what skill each collection of shots teaches the viewer.
In Archive the works attempt to impose a measure of order on the chaos inherent to life, even if that order itself seems whimsical. Olafur Eliasson’s “Reykjavik” (2003) consists of rows and columns of photographs of buildings that, one realizes after a moment, are gradually decreasing in size as they progress across and down the wall. Eliasson has sorted the facades from largest to smallest, scaling his photographs according to the relative sizes of the original buildings. Louise Lawler’s “Rest on the Flight Into Egypt and August Sunlight” (1997) shows the artist’s characteristic irreverence toward the paintings pictured while also evoking sympathy for their plight: the two paintings in the work’s title are depicted on their sides, resting face-up on a short shelf, as if awaiting a chance that may never come to hang on a wall.
Accumulation encompasses works that aggregate small marks or objects in order to make larger entities, employing the aesthetics of redundancy and repetition. The power in Tara Donovan’s “Untitled” (2003) is built from the number of tiny marks she has used to build up a large pattern, so that the work acts as a record of the manifest time and industry required to create it. The photographers Luigi Ghirri and Gabriel Orozco each create compositions of multiple objects that are identical or similar to one another. These photographs imply that a single hat, postcard, trashcan, or light bulb would not be visually or intellectually compelling, but that a group of them is worthy of our interest.
Curator’s note: I am an artist whose own work often employs the same methods as the works I've gathered here for exhibition, and I am sure that is why I am drawn to them. It gives me joy to gather and classify these artworks into different categories in the same way that many of these artists have gathered and classified other objects. I can speculate as to the artists’ motivations, but it is only speculation. In my own case, I like to count things up and sort them because I don’t trust my impressions of events around me. It is a way of accessing certain realities that my unassisted brain can’t see clearly. I am often surprised by the results.