o forth and multiply
Where do shopping and art meet? At the multiple. Beatrice Colin looks at an exhibition of mass— produced art spanning three decades.
in the late 60s. 12,000 people bought Intuition: Instead of a Cookbook by Joseph Beuys. This best- selling art work was an empty wooden box. Other popular pieces around this time included Wewer'ka’s Coat Hanger and Betty Thompson‘s Hinged Cube which sold 30,000 editions at $10 each. These weren’t copies ofother pieces or ready-mades. they were mass-produced originals or consumable ideas.
Since then, the multiple seems to have been relegated to the attic along with white plastic chairs and televisions in globe-shaped sets. Only now, as neo-conceptual art continues to surge in stature, has the multiple retumed.
The CCA is hosting an exhibition called Art Unlimited showcasing dozens of examples from the 605 and the 90s from the Arts Council‘s collection. Here work by Beuys, Christo and Lichenstein can be seen alongside pieces by Damien Hirst. Jenny Holzer and Rachel Whiteread. To complement the exhibition, ten artists have been commissioned to produce series of multiples which will be on sale. The work will include three Glasgow-based artists including Jonathon Monk and Christine Borland as well as pieces by Cathy de Monchaux. Richard Wilson and Cornelia Parker.
The growth of the multiple as a concept was originally initiated by a group of artists in an attempt to bring art to a wider public. The questions of ownership of art, the importance of the unique and the relevance of the artist as craftsman were hot topics 30 years ago. Although they were stamping grounds that Duchamp had pounded in the early part ofthis century these artists had a slightly different
agenda. By manufacturing potentially limitless editions, they could sell a multitude of original artworks at affordable prices. Regarded as the ready- to-wear in relation to the haute couture of one-off art works. multiples were a wholesale outlet for new ideas of the age. The multiple became a tool of revolution to challenge elitism and the idea that ownership of art should be an expensive luxury.
Many artists saw the potential of the form and soon the movement was huge. Mass-production meant consumerism was booming, and in this age of space travel and television ownership, people’s attitudes to art were changing. The notion of shared experience meant the mundane was scrutinised and Warhol's sorrp cans and brillo pads irnrnortalised the commodity.
Soon traffic was travelling in the other direction too as the public didn‘t want to spend their aftemoons wandering around art galleries. They wanted a piece of art in their own home: not a Picasso print or a watercolour of a local beauty spot. but a piece of contemporary art reflecting the pervading thoughts of the time. Although consumerism and citizenry would seem to pull in opposite directions, the multiple satisﬁed both appetites.
it was eventually possible to buy a piece of art in Bonwit Teller. a large New York department store,
. and by 1968. a mail order catalogue was available in
which all multiples were £1.50. it was envisaged that an international chain would soon be set up, but the success of the form was its undoing. Gradually
My Glasses: visual art by Jonathan Monk multiples cost as much as unique works.
Today‘s multiple artists have a different outlook. Unlike conventional art forms, neo-conceptualism isn‘t easy to market. Who wants a gnawed piece of chocolate or a lamb in formaldehyde in their living room? Also, many young artists work on site-specific projects where there is no product on which to place a red sticker. Many young artists are discovering multiples can make their work more accessible and consumable while commenting on common perceptions ofart and culture.
The legacy of the 60s and the multiple lives on. and some of the artists including Dalziel and Scullion and Richard Wilson nod ironically to the impact of mass production those times. The former pair have created a Television Clot/1 to recall the wooden doors of 60s televisions and Wilson has created a series of 7in singles with holes drilled across the grooves.
Other artists also mix the idea of the ready-made but with a personal irnput. Jonathon Monk‘s My Glasses is a series of a pairs of glasses all with the artist‘s prescriptive glass ﬁtted, to see with the ‘unique‘ vision of the artist.
The multiple is a small but telling signpost of the place ofart in society. it originates in the mind and travels between the factory. the art gallery, the shop and the home, in any order. This is a true hybrid artform, the bastard offspring of line art and shopping.
Art Unlimited: Multiples oft/re l960s and the I 990s
I demand rose, prices rocketed and eventually
is at the CCA until 16 Jun.
:— Boys’ games
A man ejaculates into a pail in front of a group of brightly-coloured living- room lamps. Before him, a girl caresses a lug with the word MILK written on it. Its title: MlLKMAll.
This is one scene in 84 works, making up Steven Campbell’s new show Outside-Bight at the Sunset Gate. The smaller works - acrylic on paper - are hung as Iconic cameos around seven larger oils forming a series of groups. These constellations feature recurring, dream-like images
l l 2 t y g i | l l
Steven Campbell’s Pinocchio The liar Artist
of a small boy, a red phone, the number ‘7’ and doll-like figures with stiff limbs. Their significance is unclear until you read the story-book catalogue accompanying this show (price £5). A short narrative written by Campbell himself links the paintings to incidents and experiences in the life of Campbell’s hero. He is a seven- year-old boy, who dies when struck by lightning.
But even with these clues, these cartoon-bright paintings are curiously mute. Like a child’s world, crammed with light and objects, people and images, the relationships remain a mystery not illuminated by Campbell’s narrative. Too often these paintings with their cloying, garish colours look
less like visions and more like mere illustrations of their titles, reproduced in all their punning banality.
There’s no denying Campbell’s drive and desire to produce new work, but few of these paintings work in isolation. That said, some - like Interior with Teddy - are more powerful, understated and resonant than others. The final Garden series, a naive, flower-filled landscape, represents the small boy’s final resting-place. These work in a way that many of the contrived and busy paintings in this show do not. Peace at last, and so to bed . . . (Robin Baillie) Outside-Right at the Sunset Gate Is at William llardie Gallery, Glasgow until 10 Dec.
GYThe List 2—15 December 1994