Revisiting Wade Guyton’s ‘New York Times Paintings’ at the Aspen Art Museum
If You Go …
What: Wade Guyton’s ‘The New York Times Paintings’
Where: Aspen Art Museum
When: Through Nov. 26
How much: Free
More info: http://www.aspenartmuseum.org
Push notifications. Perpetually breaking news. Constantly refreshing news pages. This is the stormy digital weather of our lives. It’s how we stay informed about the world. Many say it’s why we’re stressed out, distracted and afraid.
The artist Wade Guyton has been reckoning with this state of affairs through his “New York Times Paintings,” a growing body of work that’s included in the massive, museum-wide exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum that Guyton shares with David Weiss and Peter Fischli.
It opened in June and runs through Nov. 26. The show is so big and varied — spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of the museum and including a now weather-beaten painting on the top-floor terrace — that the “Times” paintings may get lost in the shuffle of a single visit. They’re worth revisiting.
As Guyton recalled in June, the paintings came to him when he was between exhibitions and was idling in his studio.
“I was staring at the wall, reading the news, trying to avoid coming up with a good idea,” he explained. “There would be breaking news alerts that would force themselves into my space constantly.”
The oppressive flow of news disrupted him, tossed his mind out of his studio. That in itself, he found, was a profound idea worth exploring. He decided to start printing the homepage of the New York Times on his large-format inkjet printer and see what resulted.
“What happens when you let this kind of information occupy one of your paintings?” Guyton asked. “It made this information more concrete. It stopped refreshing.”
The works capture moments in time, like the day President Barack Obama met president-elect Donald Trump in the White House — the electoral college tally and red and blue congressional seat counts at the top of the page under a banner headline. (A Charles Blow column on the rail in smaller type reading “America Elects a Bigot.”) Each painting is visually disrupted with a seam running down its center that cuts out a portion of the webpage. These works take on a strange banality these months and years later. They’re bracketed by advertisements from movie studios and banks, and for things like garden sheers, pliers and a virtual reality headset. Guyton’s nytimes.com login — wguyton1 — sits at the upper right corner of the paintings, along with the date and exact time of their printing, functioning like his signature.
Physical newspapers are built to record history — we’re used to seeing papers from monumental days preserved, framed, saved in attics. Web pages are not. Printed and blown up into large-scale paintings, they’re a bit menacing. Guyton himself described them as “weird, antagonistic.”
Of course, artists have been incorporating newspapers into their work for nearly as long as papers have existed. Guyton joins a lineage of artists, including Salvador Dali, who created his “Dali News,” to Pablo Picasso and Ellsworth Kelly and Andy Warhol and Adam McEwen, whose fictional obituaries the Aspen Art Museum exhibited earlier this year. The shock of Guyton’s pieces is that they make permanent the fleeting presence of 21st-century news, preserve moments on a screen that may have only looked that way for a few minutes and only on Guyton’s computer.
“The information goes through us when it’s online, but what happens when this information stays with you and this object is in the studio and taunts you everyday?” Guyton asked.
Fischli, on a walkthrough this summer, said he was particularly drawn to the targeted advertisements that border news of violence and unrest in Guyton’s paintings. He noted that when he Googled the weather in Aspen, the next time he looked at the news, it was bracketed by ads for hotels in Aspen.
“It’s what the so-called internet thinks will be helpful for me or what they can sell me,” he said. “In a way, I felt that especially in these works. … It could be the most important thing in the world — even if North Korea were to drop a bomb, these advertisements would be the thing that would come first.”