Magazine article Artforum International

Libby Wadsworth

Magazine article Artforum International

Libby Wadsworth

Article excerpt

Libby Wadsworth's pictorial contributions to the ambiguities of the image/text dichotomy are certainly well-intentioned. Wadsworth attempts to mimic the traditions of old-master still-life painting--a gesture not without its dutiful degree of homage--and then over- or underlays these images with stencillike sequences of text, often in the form of diagrammed sentences. Word and picture are set to exist in malleable harmony, dependent on Wadsworth as to how directly or obscurely they will interrelate. Sometimes this relationship is quite straightforward: an apple hovering an inch or two over a table in Untitled, 1989, shares the canvas with the diagrammed sentence, "The apple is on the table." More poetic is He Said, 1989, in which another carefully rendered apple sits amidst a very involved diagram of the more puzzling and mysterious quote, "Glazing is recommended for only very tart apples, he said."

Much could be gleaned from this approach. The ambiguities and doubtful authority of both image and text are, like apples, ripe for deconstruction and decontextualization. That Wadsworth's endeavor seems finally stultifying, wooden, and misplaced is due to her flawed understanding and utilization of her sources, and her forced amalgamation of them into what becomes an esthetic goo of confusing focus. Take, for example, Wadsworth's use of art history. Still lifes by artists such as Caravaggio, Juan Sanchez Cotan, Alberto Giacometti, and some Cubist prototypes are leadenly copied with a heavy handed and bothersome lack of pictorial sensitivity to their sources. Diffident brushwork, unstable space, and a dull and monochromatic command of color serve to defuse Wadsworth's intentions, mercilessly charting the distance between her efforts and the stature of her prototypes. Words too get stencilled together in uneasy and surprisingly pedestrian passages. …

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