Subtract, obscure, dismantle – through various acts of deletion, artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Sergej Jensen, Gedi Sibony and Katja Strunz simultaneously negate and honor the former existence of objects, images and ideas. With formal properties that bear occasional surface resemblance to Constructivism and modernist mark-making, these artists peel back the layers of art history and derail our associative connections to the past.
Corrosive materials such as bleach and dye act as paint surrogates on the surface of Sergei Jensen’s subtractive paintings. In a related body of work, Jensen uses transference to create phantom canvases by pressing blank surfaces against freshly painted pictures.
The dismantlement of a found object - as witnessed in the tangle of Katja Strunz’s suspended metal constellations or in one of Gedi Sibony’s partially eviscerated doors – liberates the collective memory inscribed upon it while summoning new associations. In Wade Guyton’s book page printer drawings, the inscription of a cipher, usually a “U”, “X” or geometric band of ink, partially obscures the original image underneath. The action fetishizes the historical documentation and presentation of art while the result conjures an indeterminacy of time and place.
Through surface abrasion and signature incision, Mark Grojahn’s Butterfly abstractions disrupt the tradition of purity sought by modernist abstraction. A striated primitive face, which appears boldly in Grotjahn’s cardboard Face paintings and obliquely in the Butterfly/Face hybrids, remains present though completely buried beneath the Butterfly’s geometric rays. The juncture between Face and Butterfly illustrates abstraction’s drive to disembody and its capacity to alternately hide and reveal.
Deletion is an act of creation. Paring away at something calls forth its limitations and strengths; it reminds us that you can never really delete anything because it will prove itself to you again in new ways. Construction of the perfect ghost is at hand in the gestures of these artists.
Distance contracts even as it is expanding and every movement away brings you back closer to the beginning, closer to me. I let you disappear only so that I can have you new once more, and I forget you for the unfathomable pleasure of remembering once our circles cross again.1