Image is Everything
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is pleased to announce young American artist Cory Arcangel’s
fourth solo exhibition. Born in Buffalo (NY) in 1978, Arcangel has built up an international
reputation since 2004 with his innovative performances, videos and computer-generated
In Paris, we are showing Arcangel's second exhibition, which includes works mainly in the
classic genres of sculpture and painting. This coincides with his solo exhibition Cory Arcangel –
Here Comes Everybody at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin, open from 30
November 2010 until 1 May 2011.
The title Image is Everything is that of the 1991 advertising campaign mounted by Andre
Agassi for the Canon camera company. Arcangel explains, "I was reading a lot about Andre
Agassi. And I got really into his 90s and late 80s phase [...] and started searching for artifacts
on eBay from this era of his career. A lot of my works start from vague interests. [...] The
campaign became so all-encompassing that it actually ended up overshadowing his tennis
career during that time. Agassi’s style was on my mind and influenced the works in the show."
The impartiality with which Arcangel perceives software, hardware and Internet resources as
raw art materials, placing them in new contexts, reveals a completely novel style. In the mid-
2000s, he became well known particularly through his practice of archaeology in historical
computer technology of the 1980s, while in recent years he has expanded his repertoire of art
material and digital sources.
Two series shown in Paris, consisting of computer-generated works, might almost be called
"digital ready-mades." These are the sculptures from the Wire Forms series and the
photographically produced C-prints from the Gradients series. The Wire Forms, arrangements
of metal rods shaped by a robot and then powder-coated, are based on a computer program
developed by the artist to produce random forms. Their appeal lies in their being computergenerated
yet at the same time shaped using analogue techniques, like a classic sculpture.
The Gradients, by contrast, are based on pre-set patterns from the graphics software
Photoshop. The artist can determine the composition with a single click of the mouse, each
click forming the title of the work, and he provides precise instructions for the user to produce
In the installation Since U Been Gone..., which consists of a CD player and 48 CDs, the artist
experiments with a system and genealogy used in a special, currently popular "Punk Pop Top
40 Music," which he sees as ideally embodied in Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone. An
arrangement of 48 CDs enables Arcangel to reconstruct the influences from the music of the
past 50 years which led to this and similar hits. The work is interactive, and the viewer can
listen to the CDs, although the artist regards the installation primarily as a sculpture.
Arcangel's series of Kinetic Sculptures, groups of Dancing Stands often found in cheap
electronics stores, and the Sport Products, Oakley sunglasses cast in bronze, refer to an era of
1990s design which was followed shortly afterwards by that of Steve Jobs' sleek iPods. The
Kinetic Sculptures, a kind of "cheap and tacky Sol LeWitt," according to the artist, also pose the
question of why the canon of art history has largely discarded kinetic sculpture, and how far the
canonization of high culture is determined by changing tastes and fashions.
The ageing process of technologies is of course a central theme in Arcangel's work, but he
nevertheless does not see himself purely as a nostalgist. Rather, he looks at the way people
smile indulgently at past fashions and technologies as a basic characteristic of human
behavior. "I think maybe in retrospect [about old technologies] we realize our lack of
perspective. And this of course doesn’t just have to do with technology but it extends to fashion
and culture in general. How could we have dressed like that? How could we have thought that
way? What once seemed all encompassing now has no value. It’s, I guess, one of those quirks
of human existence," says Arcangel.
In the series Timeless Standards, Arcangel illustrates how the iconography of one of the most
important 20th-century artists is transferred into the world of design and commerce and then
taken back by the artist into the sphere of art. Last year, the Lacoste firm was selling polo shirts
clearly inspired by Roy Lichtenstein. Arcangel decided to bring back the Lichtenstein motif into
the White Cube, by scanning the shirts, printing out the scans and applying them on to
cardboard. The floor installation Skipping Stones is to be seen in a similar context; here FLOR
textile tiles are laid to form a structure resembling a classic sculpture by Carl André.
The exhibition includes a new video installation, There’s Always One at Every Party, for which
Arcangel has collected all the scenes from Seinfeld (one of the most influential American 1990s
sitcoms) in which Kramer talks about his Coffee Table Book about Coffee Tables. Here
Arcangel uses the "supercut" technique (a popular internet genre), where thematically linked
scenes copied from a film are strung together. In this idea of a Coffee Table Book about Coffee
Tables, he sees a phenomenon with parallels in conceptual art. "What I’m interested in is to me
to mix this online vernacular style and Seinfeld, and then place the whole thing back into a fine
art context," explains the artist.
It is rare for an artist of the youngest generation to receive such concentrated attention from
distinguished cultural institutions. In 2004, works by Arcangel were already being shown in the
Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Royal Academy of Art, London, at the Liverpool
Biennial, in the Whitney Museum of Art, New York and the Guggenheim Museum, New York. In
2005, the Migros Museum, Zurich held a comprehensive solo exhibition of his work. In 2008, he
participated in the exhibition Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today in the New York
Museum of Modern Art. This year, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami and the University
of Michigan Museum of Art mounted solo exhibitions, to be followed in 2011 by the Whitney
Museum of American Art, New York and the Barbican Gallery, London.