“Mirroring”– An Art of Reproducibility
The notion that art mirrors nature, or frames the world, is an ancient—and much criticized—trope of artistic representation. These artists’ books engage this long and controversial history of the representation of life in art yet again. In the context of the democratic and anti-elitist turns in artistic practice traced throughout this exhibition, these books serve to undermine residual aesthetic attitudes that privileged a particular cultural or artistic perspective. Instead, artists sought to destroy the aura around artistic images by democratizing their reception, mechanizing their production, and by insisting on the everydayness of the “reflection” presented in their work.
No one understood this better than Dieter Roth, who articulated his artistic philosophy in the first printing of his Daily Mirror series: “Instead of showing quality (surprising quality) we show quantity (surprising quantity).” The Daily Mirror, a British tabloid, provided an ideally titled source for Roth to question role of “truth” and authenticity in defining the quality of news. Characteristically, Roth uses the Daily Mirror repeatedly, enlarging and fragmenting stories, cartoons, headlines, and blank margins in square segments, or reducing them into miniatures, and incessantly reprinting them. He provides an image of the news and its sundry concerns as a quantity.
Gerhard Richter’s painting is famously “photographic.” In 128 details from a picture (Halifax) he arranges close-up photographs revealing the surface textures of an oil on canvas. He thus challenges us to think about our different habits of viewing – painting, photography, and even landscape. Where between the photographic details in the book and the unique painting does the “picture of Halifax” reside?
In his Ideale Landschaft, a “color pattern book” of six identical landscapes rendered in six shades of green as though for sale in a local hardware store, KP Brehmer reflects on the commodification of the natural world. His book offers an ambiguous ideal lodged between the idea of the imaginary landscape pictured, and the commercial availability of it as a palette that could be used the paint the home.