Andrew Grassie “Fabrication” at Johnen Galerie, Berlin
Johnen Galerie is pleased to present Andrew Grassie’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
Entitled “Fabrication”, it includes a series of 9 new paintings from 2014-2016 that depict specialized workshops, both industrial and artisanal, where art works are being produced. While previous paintings depicted works by other artists in institutional settings, namely in spaces which by their very power/nature can grant the status of art, this series is akin to art works’ origin story, showing them before they emerge from the undifferentiated mass of non-art matter. The works being produced, some by well-known artists such as Martin Boyce or Charles Ray, are not always readily recognizable amidst their surroundings.
Despite, or perhaps as a function of the minute detail of Grassie’s paintings, it is difficult to fix on any one detail. This visual effect, as if a unifying filter lay on the image, draws attention to the very foundation of Andrew Grassie’s practice: locating the site (here: time) of creation. The subject appears to be less the aspect of authenticity that relates to the nature of style or its absence but rather concerns the translation of an idea into art. At which point does the work of art come into being? When do the works being fabricated at these industrial or artisanal sites become fully realized works of art?
Andrew Grassie’s paintings are based on photographs the artist has taken himself or in some cases found. Often they have been elaborately staged, although this effort is veiled by the ostensibly unassuming matter-of-factness the small, precisely painted works exude. The works are executed with egg tempera, a technique associated with pre-Renaissance panel paintings anteceding the development of oil paint. The color pigment is mixed with egg yolk creating a paint that dries very rapidly and remains relatively sheer. To create cover and solid colors therefore entails a time-consuming application of many layers to modulate the final image.
With the series Fabrication Grassie is drawing an analogy between conceptual art’s post-studio practice and the artisanal workshop system of previous centuries. Especially, as Grassie’s painting technique was preferably practiced in such workshop settings in early Renaissance Italy where a master would gather around him apprentices to prepare and often paint large sections of his output.
Andrew Grassie’s paintings often have a stillness that sometimes belies their subject matter, in the case of his new series, quite literally: the clamor of such sites of fabrication appears visible absent. The images have a timeless quality, even though they also suggest an action is taking place, that the inhabitants of these spaces had perhaps only briefly left. In this context, Grassie has spoken of an “airtight quality that creates a sort of aura of mystery around simple things,” comparing the effect to a vacuum, “as if reality were wrapped in cling film or a layer of thick air.”
at Johnen Galerie, Berlin
until 27 February 2016
Fabrication: Barnacle Bros, L.A. With work by Smilee B and A Hank Willis Thomas, 2015
Fabrication: MDM London Workshop, 2015
Fabrication: Standard Sculpture L.A. With work by Jeff Koons, 2015
Fabrication: Sculpture And Design, Glasgow. With work by Martin Boyce In Studio 3, 2016
Andrew Grassie “Fabrication” installation views at Johnen Galerie, Berlin, 2016
Courtesy: the artist and Johnen Galerie, Berlin. Photo: Andrea Rossetti