Consequences is an attempt to keep a collaborative artistic pulse going. As awful as that sounds and after finally scrapping the term ‘collaboration’ because of it’s overuse and shortcomings, I’m hopeful that the exhibition will display the only space we have left; one that exists amongst a small group of friends that are enamored with each other and slightly suspicious of the outside world. I was reminded of the Lars Von Trier film, The Five Obstructions while working on the early versions of the show, searching for a novel way to change the process of making something we are all too familiar with. As we grow and fall in to the repetitive rituals that create any language, there’s a danger in it becoming predictable and manneristic, even to oneself. The Surrealists knew this and tried, through their parlour game of the same name (Consequences in French) to challenge this inevitable boredom. Through chance and a simple fold, multiple authors explored what I see more and more as the foundation of our everyday thoughts; a mixture of personal narratives, layered references and fused emotions.
In 2009, Conny Purtill explained to me his desire for a method of working that he described as inefficient. To my surprise, because of how efficient he is as a human being, his desire was to transform the process of making an artwork into a challenge by first creating a ‘ground’ for another artist to receive and work on top of. With a strange combination of influence, channeling both Carl Andre and Donald Rumsfeld, Purtill’s Grounds made their way to a number of artists who then accepted the understood contract. The results to date have been bizarre and trapped in a moment that can only be described as ‘pressurized’. To begin the transaction, a perfectly wrapped canvas arrives in the mail, once unwrapped the surface revealed rivals that of an all over material as satisfying as marble, created by painting and sanding multiple layers of gesso, India ink and graphite. The next question I’m sure every person who has ever received a Ground would have is, “Should I touch it?” Most do, and the resulting aggressions and marks have been shown together only twice previously, this exhibition being the third. In some ways, Consequences is the tree that is still growing from Conny’s seed and for that reason I asked him to put together a show within a show dedicated strictly to his Grounds. He immediately invited me, on me inviting him, and then acting as chief curator he invited himself, along with Todd Norsten, Felix Culpa, Josiah McElheny, and Ari Marcopoulos, to be involved.
The other organizing principle for the show came about after reading Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer’s book for Afterall on Lee Lozano’s ‘Dropout Piece’ and hearing Sarah talk about her research on Lozano’s hard to formalize works. I was struck by the fact that ‘Dropout Piece’ might not have been an artwork by Lee Lozano at all but a dare or proposition to a generation of artists that could regain control of their actions, or at least die trying. The looseness of the parameters were what drew me to the idea in the first place as I had been re-fashioning a set of elements and tools to change my work, and this was again a way to change the process and like Lozano, the tools and the process became everything worth obsessing over. I am a studio artist in every sense of the daily grind and in that daily grind movements become repetitive to the point of lunacy so including The Ghost of Lee Lozano is a tribute to an artist who’s memory affects the form of everything this show is about; an irreverent misunderstanding that at times could be based more in jest than anything else.
As every show has its own narrative, this one begins with someone being angry with me, which is maybe fitting for a show that calls itself Consequences. After organizing a series of shows from 2012-2014 under the name Trieste with a group of like-minded artists, I’m so thrilled that the evolution has been harder to control and the results more satisfying, provocative and problematic. In some cases, specifically with Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Justin Schlepp and Gedi Sibony, the lead up taught me that there is a point when a single artist can overtake collaborative intentions, owning the moment, resulting in a kind of sole authorship. This alone might be the most valuable thought to take away from an experience that involved a years’ worth of slapstick interactions, ranging from the purchase of an outhouse (a two-holer) and picnic table to the use of telepathy, frogs in Denmark, a box full of cardboard and wood, a stool with something to teach us and a realization that we are each other’s dysfunctional family tree. All of the artists have been game, agreeing to a series of conditions that are by no means ideal. Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Gedi Sibony, Todd Norsten, Michael Stickrod, the Unknown Artist, Conny Purtill, Justin Schlepp, Felix Culpa, Josiah McElheny, Ari Marcopoulos, and the ghost of Lee Lozano have unknowingly created a garden together, a very American one; drunken, dumb, colorful and of marginal taste.
– Jay Heikes