Offset lithography is regularly used to produce reproductions of fine art that are sold in museum stores and poster shops everywhere. Because of its cost, its association with advertising and product sales, and perhaps most specifically its disposability, offset lithography is often considered outside of the high-art spectrum. While not new, it is ripe for exploration. With its ability to print on a variety of materials achieving a wide spectrum of color and tone, offset lithography is a perfect medium to exercise an experimental endeavor. The application and commercialization of this process is a boon to artists interested in working beyond current interpretations of existing media. After all, a process heralded by one segment of the visual world is in a prime place to be questioned and appropriated by another.
Each work in this show takes the form of an offset lithographic poster, made on the same large multi-plate presses used to produce magazines, take-out menus, and calendars. Offset, as it is known, can act as a medium like any other, and some artists have employed it for specific works. This is perhaps best evinced by the endlessly produced poster stacks of Felix Gonzales-Torres, the print work of Lawrence Weiner, and the small edition books of Ed Ruscha. There are other artists too; however, the elevation of offset-printed material to rarefied object is most thoroughly recognized in the heavily trafficked market of collectible ephemera found mainly online and in specialized point-of-purchase storefronts.
Collectibility, it can be observed, signals that over time, certain ephemera transforms into an artifact with value outside its original implementation. Once this transformation occurs, the object's meaning becomes malleable. For some, this is a place to collect; for artists, it can be a point of departure.
The unforeseen outcome of this kind of collectibility and the ensuing transformation of printed matter from illustrative content to material object-hood can be seen through skewed eyes as a tool or a process that takes place over time. As the original purpose of printed matter depletes, the poster (in this case) begins to assert its own objectness. It is the separation from the original intent over time that causes the transformation. My goal is to see what happens if the artists' original intent can take advantage of this transformation. What kind of objects can be created? What do the artworks look like? Does the mechanical action of producing multiple works inform the presence of one piece out of the whole?
With this in mind, I have selected 10 artists who I feel recognize the value of this material and the value of the medium's mass production as well as those whose artistic practice might take advantage of it. Each artist will produce a new work for the show. Some of the artists selected have already attempted to use the medium, and many of them have working practices that are informed by an awareness of a printed vernacular.
-- Matthew Spiegelman