I was invited into a show at Coagula Gallery in Los Angeles in the winter of 2012, with the premise being the works should be on paper.
My impulse at first was to quickly create a drawing or perhaps find something that I had done already on paper to put in the show. I had a painted codex that is part of a larger unrealized project, and didn’t want to risk the possibility of it selling, however overly hopeful that seems to me now. Besides, I have been working with performed actions, spontaneous reactions and my typewriter for some time, and wanted to allow these natural strategies to enter and take shape for this problem as well.
My strategy for the show was to type up a set of instructions in the form of a letter for the curator, to be unsealed at the show’s opening night. In the letter would also be a group of paper works including:
a license authorizing me to marry people;
a deed to a condominium I used to own;
a street beggar’s handmade sign;
a handwritten note from the Michael Werner Gallery in New York;
an antique certificate of stock in a Mexican water company;
and a piece of amate paper used as test paper while working on a larger painted codex.
The letter and directions- to be read out loud and followed sequentially- included taking out the work and arranging it on the wall. Next he was instructed to use the long length of the letter as a tape measure next to the other works. Attaching it also to the wall, he was next supposed to draw out his own ‘ruler’ on the long paper, and figure out the vertical ‘measure’ of the grouping of pieces on the wall. Finally, he was to write down the measurement (whatever that number would be, based on his drawn ruler) on a line at the top of the letter.
He didn’t really do any of this.
I guess that’s why I -unwittingly- called it, “Works on Paper”.
Nonetheless, I was at peace with this work.
The work challenged hierarchy of images: hand drawn versus typed versus printed;
art versus advertising versus legal document; celebrity versus business versus unknown.
Was this my work? Whose work? What about the value of it? Where did the value lie- in the quality of the paper, the provenance, the power bestowed?
I wanted the curator to create his own scale for measuring the work, to draw it by hand on the same letter that was giving him the instructions.
I wanted to bring out a certain randomness and absurdity in producing a relatively arbitrary ‘number’. Of course, a higher number would mean a better score,
I wanted to make all of these items the same- they are all works on paper. I wanted them- and by extension, my work- to be ‘sized up’. Don’t we, as artists, all want to know, how we measure up?
paper objects included in the “Rock Paper Scissors” exhibition at Coagula Gallery, Winter 2012.