Magazine article Artforum International

Matthew Higgs: Murray Guy

Magazine article Artforum International

Matthew Higgs: Murray Guy

Article excerpt

Art Always Changes. The first work in Matthew Higgs's third solo exhibition at Murray Guy takes its content and title from a truism of creative endeavor. But with a self-deprecating wit characteristic of the British-born, New York-based artist, the phrase also appears knowingly self-contradictory. If Higgs considers art to be inherently mercurial, one might ask, why does he so doggedly pursue the same, apparently confining, line of inquiry even as his critical and curatorial interests broaden ever outward? Art Always Changes, 2005, is a framed book page (all the works in the show, bar one, are either pages or covers), a frontispiece to a work penned by some long-forgotten martyr to the truth of its titular pronouncement. The self-consciously "designed" typography and pointed italicization (ART ALWAYS CHANGES) suggest that it might have been a populist broadside as opposed to an academic treatise, but the clues end there. The framing is neat and neutral, the presentation (pale gray-painted gallery walls aside) uninflected.

The work is typical of Higgs's practice of the past dozen or so years, in that it's based on sourcing and recontextualization rather than on making (the press release calls it "found conceptual art," and the label isn't a bad one). But what initially risks appearing slight or gimmicky ultimately signals, in Higgs's hands, a productive restraint: The longer he persists with the project, the greater its resonance. The closer the work comes to absolute detachment, the more compelling are its residual nuances, and the more affecting it somehow becomes--even, or perhaps especially, when it is saturated with silliness. ArtAint All Paint, 1999, evokes the forced jollity of a local newspaper headline: The fact that someone could have burdened a book with such a title seems to open onto an entire universe of poor judgment and generally dumbed-down thought. …

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