Walead Beshty tends to think of his work in terms of constraints, whether that be context, convention, or material, and uses their logic to generate the work. This methodology applies to his "Blind Collages" series that began around 2012. Throughout his many travels, Beshty began collecting different iterations of the same publications in different countries and cities. In this exhibition, you will notice Beshty's use of The New York Times from Tokyo, Beirut, and New York. He takes particular interest in viewing the newspaper as a readymade but pushes this concept further through his procedure of cutting the newspapers.
He follows one procedure of cutting, which is to circle through the backs of newspaper pages rotating them at 180 degrees. Since they are face down, there is an element of surprise in how the content of journalism and advertising interact together once the cut has been made. Beshty relinquishes control of his final product by embracing misalignments and filling them with gold leaf. This technique is an homage to the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, meaning golden ("kin") and repair ("tsugi"), in which ceramics or pottery are mended by powdered gold.
Text freely adapted from Walead Beshty & Lynn Kost, Walead Beshty, Work in Exhibition, 2011-2020, Kunst Museum Winterthur, MAMCO Geneva, Koenig Books, London, 2020
I am always invested in understanding how my work is transformed by the various means through which it is circulated.
Beshty's work combines essential strategies of contemporary art practice, while questioning art as a practice. Beshty's work goes beyond theoretical ideas by addressing the art system as such: its production processes, its shipping and handling procedures, as well as its modes of presentation and the sale of artworks. Art is thus considered as part of the economic as well as the social system and the work itself makes this condition visible.
Beshty also pays tribute to the so-called “neo-avant-garde” of the 1960s. If his work often appears like Minimal or Conceptual art, the differences are clearly stated when he has technical staff handle the precious surfaces with their bare hands, leaving traces of the handling on the pieces as part of the process the work goes through in the art system. Similarly, his procedural works like the FedEx series are marked by their transit, evolving through time and exhibition and thus changing between regular goods and art objects depending on their context.
Text freely adapted from Lynn Kost, Walead Beshty, Work in Exhibition, 2011-2020, Kunst Museum Winterthur, MAMCO Geneva, Koenig Books, London, 2020
In addition to showcasing the expansive nature of Beshty's practice, the bodies of work on view are united by common themes of travel and circulation. Conceptually, the exhibition in and of itself plays a role in the circulation of the work, according to Beshty, "The exhibition hall (a commercial gallery, museum, online viewing room, etc.) is a distribution hub for the work of art, expanding the circulation of artworks through the actions and activities that take place in these contexts, and in so doing, they are also producers of an artwork’s meaning."
Quote freely adapted from Lynn Kost, Walead Beshty, Work in Exhibition, 2011-2020, Kunst Museum Winterthur, MAMCO Geneva, Koenig Books, London, 2020