Christian Marclay at Paula Cooper Gallery
One doesn’t usually associate the video artist Christian Marclay with paintings or works on paper. Yet at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, a suite of his new paintings and prints were on view, unaccompanied by any time-based elements. However, true to the artist’s sound-based practice, each large piece is punctuated by onomatopoeias that evoke action. Each is also done in a bright palette and in a style that is analogous to comic book pages. - Nadiah Fellah, NYC Contributor
On one large canvas, the words “Plop! Plish! Pop! Sploot!” emerge from colorful bursts of paint splatters, written in fonts that are equally suggestive of their aural implications. Marclay’s use of random gestures and chance operations to produce the variegated canvases draws in part from the influence of John Cage, another artist whose work traversed both sound and visual media. However, unlike Cage, Marclay has remained committed to choice color combinations, choosing to create effects within each abstract work that are at once chaotic and holistic.
The works draw in part from a previous series that Marclay did, titled Manga Scroll from 2010. In this piece, the artist combined onomatopoeias taken from Japanese Manga and American comics into a single vocal score. Evocative of the ancient art form of the Japanese scroll, the phonetic expressions of myriad sound effects undulate and swirl across the extended paper surface, complete with puffs of smoke where a “Boom!” ends and a “Buzzzz” begins. When performed, the scroll is fully realized from appropriated imagery to the acoustic experience its appearance conjures, a collaborative experience between both artist and performer.
The use of source materials from comics and graphic novels is also in line with Marclay’s practice of splicing together found recordings and film footage in many of his works, such as in the epic montage The Clock. In the 24-hour film, Marclay famously edited together movie and TV footage of time-related scenes to be shown in real-time, each minute-long scene synchronized to correspond to the actual time. An ingenious blend of pop culture and historical references, The Clock pushes the typical time-based project to its limits, becoming as much a test of endurance for audiences as it was a trial of resources for its producers.
In this way, the paintings on view broaden Marclay’s explorations of sound and image, and how they merge to create a full–blown sensory effect. In their chaotic yet uncannily unified aesthetics, his paintings match the pace and feel of his sound and video work, revealing narrative fragments that allow viewers to glean from them their own imaginative possibilities.
Christian Marclay (b. 1955, San Rafael, California) grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. His work has been shown at international venues including the Museum of Modern Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva; Kunsthaus Zürich; and the Tate Modern, London. In 2011, he received The Golden Lion for his presentation of The Clock at the Venice Biennale. Marclay lives and works in New York and London.
Nadiah Fellah is a doctoral student of Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York.