What’s to distinguish the coat of paint from code? The procedure of painting from the condition of encryption that saturates and conditions the canvas with – if not ‘meaning’ – then a succession of on/off switches: risk and/or collapse, blankness and/or figuration, the singular and/or the serial, the manual and/or the mechanical, paint and/or more paint?
The paintings of Nathan Hylden take as a starting point the canvas’s indexical pre-condition. The painting looks at itself and sees that it’s coated and encoded, spliced, sampled and looping itself. Hylden’s conceptual, yet lush, nearly-abstract group of paintings are like test strips for methods of effacement, the brush-work of brushing-off. Gesture becomes something closer to algorithm, and process closer to script.
For Goes On, his third exhibition at KÖNIG GALERIE, Hylden has grouped three, related sets of paintings, in which a recursive condition of duplication and splicing exists within and without the canvas. ‘Goes on’ means: that the painting goes on the wall just as paint goes to canvas, that (the) painting goes on, and that a condition of serial surplus (on and on) has met the shrugging of shy redundancy in and of the works.
One series, of the three presented and interspersed with one another (all works are untitled) at the gallery, was produced as follows: Hylden laid two canvasses side -by -side, and coated both (as if one) with surgy, metallic, opalescent strokes using a large, self-made brush. The left-hand canvas was then superimposed over the right-hand canvas, after which Hylden coated both with spray paint. Like a code or loop, the dark bars mark one canvas’s imprint on the other. The result evokes the atmospheric cancellation of a solar eclipse, but also the scanning bars of a roll of film, or even a censor bar – all forms where nature and machine edit themselves.
Objects, unlike electronic signals, are always ‘on’, whether or not we use them. The painting, its pure if recalcitrant objecthood, can’t be willed ‘off’, although Hylden’s technique of splicing attempts to interrupt the movement of content with the colder remove of method. Musical registers, filmic time, and the binary condition of data – on, off, cadence and repetition – are appropriate comparisons: in their compression of time, in their techniques of splicing, notation and rhythm.
For a second group of works presented here, the digital is not a condition for production, but a kind of excluded middle. For these, murkier, algea-like canvasses, Hylden repeated the mechanical process of superimposition and self-encoding, albeit after identifying the colors used in the first, rosier series and utilizing the inverse color scheme. Added to superimposition, then, is an axis where the painting manipulates or tricks itself anew.
The light bulb in Hylden’s light bulb paintings, meanwhile, has been UV-printed on – the ‘eureka’ or ‘a-ha’ moment of discovery. These are the only captured, or trapped, images in the exhibition. But is there, perhaps, not the cancelling import of a memento mori in some of the light bulbs? They could be skulls. The glass cranium removed, and hence the optical illusion, and ocular rift, of an eyeball, stripped bare to the pure scaffolding of the socket, which is another word for canvas.
Text: Pablo Larios
Nathan Hylden was born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, in 1978. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘More Over,’ Art Concept, Paris; ‘Of All Things,’ Misako & Rosen, Tokyo; and ‘Meanwhile,’ Hamburger Kunstverein, Hamburg. Recent group exhibitions include ‘Tile,’ Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin; ‘Beware Wet Paint,’ Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; ‘Plus un geste,’ Galerie Michel Journiac, Paris; ‘Love Story – Anne & Wolfgang Titze Collection,’ Belvedere, Vienna; ‘The Floating Admiral,’ within the framework of Nouvelles Vagues, Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and ‘L’Origine des choses,’ Collection du Centre National des Arts Plastiques, La CENTRALE for Contemporary Art, Brussels.