Magazine article Artforum International

Dike Blair: D'amelio Terras

Magazine article Artforum International

Dike Blair: D'amelio Terras

Article excerpt

Dike Blair's recent show was a mini survey of gouache still lifes made between 1988 and 1997. Presented in D'Amelio Terras's front room by arrangement with Blair's regular gallery, Feature, Inc., these works had not all been shown together before. The artist began last year to incorporate similar hyperrealist paintings on paper into his post-Minimal sculptures, which typically also involve light boxes, power cords, and industrial carpeting. But when not constituting conceptual devices within larger works, Blair's early stand-alone scenes from the life of mundane objects occupy an oddly indeterminate position.

The items depicted--stacked VHS tapes, for example--are immediately familiar, but one feels their creeping obsolescence. Like artifacts under glass, the works' subjects betray their age. At the same time, the sense of touchstone objects having been hermetically walled away behind transparent sheaths express a deeper, totally contemporary preoccupation.

The fifteen small, untitled paintings on view were arranged roughly chronologically. Earlier works depicted studio setups, composites of late twentieth-century consumerism with a faint masculine flavor: books by Philip K. Dick and J. G. Ballard, a Maxell cassette, a Mennen Speed Stick, a Marlboro soft-pack, open cans of Coca-Cola Classic. Blair is genuinely interested in the charge of pleasure and boredom attached to incidentals like ashtrays and comic books. But his real fascination is with the way in which reflective surfaces keep the handmade realist image strangely liquid, simultaneously opposed and indebted to the simulacral, instrumental reproduction. Blair arranged his name-brand totems on sheets of glass painted on their undersides, photographed the arrangements, and painted from the photographs. Occasionally, he spray-painted the paper before modeling the image in gouache and pencil. Through such simple technical procedures, the arrays appear to hover on richly hued, smoothly continuous, subtly mirrored grounds. A travel alarm clock (Braun) and a carton of cigarettes (Marlboro) ghost themselves in pools of reflection. Then, of course, the pictures are framed behind glass, adding random reflections of the gallery's interior or viewers' faces. …

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