Counterpictures: Paintings in Drag • Manuel Ocampo

Jan 8 to Jan 30, 2016 • Tall Gallery
“While he purported to paint to please and wished to sell, he in fact exalted ideas about his artistic and spiritual aristocracy. His political opinions for what they are worth are decidedly anti-democratic. Yet he deliberately sought out the milieu he despised…”

—Jonas Sanchez, The Misery of Good Intentions in the Pursuit of Manual Perfection

For a long time now I have identified myself as an artist. With that identification, I decided to focus my practice with regards to painting, art’s medium, par excellence. But this practice is not so much about making paintings as it is about calling oneself a painter. I aim to present this question of identification as a problematic one, acting it out as a conflicting relationship to painting. I can say that I am not a painter but a person who paints. One might, then, assert a marked conceptual utilization of and understanding about painting in my work. This medium is regarded as being a complex language, consisting of sociality, references and actions, within which painting is a privileged sign whose weighty history does not become a burden but, on the contrary, is turned to advantage. An advantage in connection with the investigation of subjectivity and history, that is. Painting is regarded as art’s pre-eminent surface, a territory which must be marked out in addition to the institutional, formal, and historic markings which have already taken place. It is private and official at one and the same time. Within this level, painting then is regarded as an image of art rather than a depiction of something. In my work, painting as category is the motive itself.

In this year starter of a show at Finale, I present objects that have the look of painting or what can be identified as painting but instead of the basic materials that confers itself as painting I present silkscreens as if they are the above-mentioned object/medium. With the exception of wood for the stretchers the materials are existentially alike but differ in function: silkscreen mesh for canvas and photo-emulsion for paint. This show might seem like an insouciant gesture, postponing the need to produce “actual” paintings and coming up with stand-ins instead. One could even say that they are paintings in drag.
The silkscreens in this show have been used before to create images of earlier art pieces on canvas which were shown in New York early last year.

With the history attached to these screens the pieces lend themselves to a variety of readings such as the discourse surrounding painting and photography, on mechanical reproduction, and the indexical and the concept of medium specificity.
The screens also have the dual function of being a painting and the printing device itself so as to create print editions thereby modifying and expanding its serviceability to an inert object to one that can function as an instrument. The viewer/audience or collector can deal with this multi-use if he/she chooses to do so.

Here we are dealing with conceptual strategies using painting, with its historical implications, as a surface upon which different kinds of references and preferences can be projected. I want to fill the pictures with references and significations while at the same time they are entirely emptied of the same. My interest lies in presenting basic modes of painting and problematizing the medium, as well as framing my practice to a point of dismissal and it’s recuperation or “the problem of calling oneself a painter today.”

—Not Manuel Ocampo