Arranged in a grid, these devices project a range of imagery developed by the artist to create a multipart digital mirage, alternately synchronized and syncopated. The exhibition also features a series of wall-mounted brass panels overlaid by snapshot photographs from Wolfson’s childhood. A concurrent installation of the works will be on view at David Zwirner, Paris, opening 06 February.
Throughout his career, Wolfson has examined the intersections between art, technology and the mass media, exploring the ways in which imagery and information are experienced and disseminated. Using CGI animation, facial-recognition software, virtual-reality headsets, and advanced animatronics, among other technologies, he has continuously challenged the individual’s relationship with the media and information systems.
In ARTISTS FRIENDS RACISTS, Wolfson continues to probe American culture and contemporary life through an eponymously titled work which utilizes cutting-edge holographic display technology. Rapidly spinning fans have micro LEDs embedded in their blades, and these illuminate in a precise manner to create the illusion of imagery floating in space. The devices have primarily been marketed for commercial use – as a means of luring consumers and presenting brands and products in a visually dynamic and novel way.
Wolfson redeploys this high-tech allure in a formation of rapid-moving displays, throughout which images and themes recur and proliferate. The fans are programmed with animated characters, symbols and words – including a cartoon heart, a puppy, an imprisoned cat and other motifs, alongside various internet clips and photos. Thematically structuring the piece are a variety of animated words – including the titular “Artists”, “Friends” and “Racists” – that drop repeatedly across the displays, appearing to crash to the ground like blocks of stone. At times, the underlying images appear innocuous – for instance, portraits of historical artists or scenes from Sesame Street – while others depict more overtly charged subjects such as police cars and 9/11 firefighters. Viewed within the space of the gallery, the sequence plays out like a choreographed dance or musical composition, with the imagery at times synchronized – multiple fans featuring the same projection – and at other times disjointed and incongruous. At once enigmatic, comical and disquieting, the presentation highlights how symbols, characters, and even language have achieved a life of their own in today’s advanced image economy, existing like spectres that float beyond the confines of the media and systems in which they circulate.
In a specially designed rotunda space, Wolfson has installed a series of new wall-mounted brass panels featuring UV substrate prints of photographs from his childhood. Standing in contrast to the immateriality and animation of the holographic displays, these icon-style objects form part of the artist’s ongoing series of sculptural wall-mounted objects. The oval brass panels allude variously to ancient metallurgy, classical and Byzantine sculpture, and the radiant, gilded surfaces of churches and altarpieces from the Middle Ages. Isolated like slide projections on the surface of the brass, the childhood snapshots attain a surreal aura while also being intimately linked to the artist’s own past, as much as to the universal experience of nostalgia mediated through photographic imagery.