Breaking up has never been easy. It's also never been easier, thanks to text messaging.
In her first New York solo exhibition, Allison L. Wade presents an entire series of artworks devoted to the breakup text message. Set against painted and photographed backgrounds on differently sized canvases, each work features a single text sent during one of Wade's own romantic failures, either by Wade herself or one of her exes.
They range from the tragic, "I knew you would do this to me," and desperate, "This is my last attempt to get in touch with you before I feel like a stalker!" to the utterly bizarre and comical "WTF!!! You left for Ibiza without me," and "Sorry I have been out of touch this week. There was a snow storm and I have been watching movies."
It's Not You builds off Wade's previous series Break-Up Texts, first released at PULSE Miami in 2013, which blew up on social media and were the most shared images from the fair on Twitter and Instagram.
Ripped from their contexts, Wade's sometimes confusing, other times profound snippets of conversation articulate the disconnectedness of human communication in the age of digital media. Furthering this confusion are the seemingly random backgrounds she chooses for each message. One subtlety is set in red text against a red background: "Before the misundestandings [sic] get out of hand, I'd like to speak with you." Another, channeling those corny motivational office posters defining "Respect" and "Teamwork," features several color gradients and a Kodak stock image of a woman with a bunch of produce. It reads "I handled things very poorly and wanted you to know that I am sorry." It's not really clear why Wade has made any of the artistic decisions she has. Everything just feels random, but then again, break ups are seldom as clear cut as we would hope.
In what is perhaps the best-known example of virtual break up artworks, Sophie Calle created a similarly interesting response to e-dumping. For Take Care of Yourself, created for the French Pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennale, Calle orchestrated a multi-media exhibition featuring text analysis, portraits, and filmed performances based on women's interpretations of a breakup letter she received via email. An exhaustive study of emotional turmoil reaching to the level of comedy, Calle's show built off responses from 107 women (including two made from wood, a psychic, and a parrot), who each added another dimension to Calle's romantic hardship.
If you're really into dwelling on the past, Zagreb offers perhaps the world's most definitive overview of breakups at their Museum of Broken Relationships, an entire museum dedicated to showcasing the artifacts of heartache and romantic failure. A kitschy glass horse figurine, a bread pan—no object is too insignificant to drudge up the memories of crushing despair. There's even an old cell phone a guy gave to his ex-girlfriend so that she couldn't call him anymore, an ingenious solution to torturous breakups that drag on and on.
Wade's show adds a post-internet art take to the enduring fact is that breakups suck. Her exhibition runs through January 10, 2015, at Rick Wester Fine Art in New York.
(All images courtesy of Allison L. Wade and Rick Wester Fine Art, New York)