In his first solo show at at Rachel Uffner Gallery, Becket Bowes will exhibit a series of text paintings and sculptures that highlight art’s attempt to communicate, and its inevitable failure to do so. Though frustrating, the inherent misalignment between intention and reception is also, importantly, the site of beauty.
In his past projects, Bowes has used fields such as mathematics, information theory and behavioral science as entry points for elaborate aesthetic explorations of the nature of order and its inevitable collapse. In this show, the notion of failure takes on a more personal and contemplative note. Bowes began his series of silk-screened paintings by selecting a highly specific academic paper, “The Failure of Interpolation in Modal Logics,” whose surface readability (it is, after all, written in English) gives way, on second glance, to near-total impenetrability.
This shift from seeming communication to its ultimate defeat recalls the poetics of early abstraction – its hope for the creation of a new universal language challenged as much as facilitated by its move away from figuration. Bowes’ labor intensive process – plotting the Photoshopped article on vinyl, then meticulously picking out its marks before silk-screening it in its entirety, using oil paint, on separate Dibond panels – collapses a conceptual approach into a studio based painting practice. Meaning in Bowes’ work arises, then, not through a transparent process of interpretation, but rather from the work’s aura of handmade, obsessive attention, which then solicits its viewer’s corresponding awareness.
Bowes’ ready-made sofa, missing two of its legs, offers another moment of defamiliarization. Its diagonally collapsed stance mimics the awkward hanging of the text paintings on the wall, and similarly hinders the spectator’s ability to understand her environment’s aesthetic cues. In “Der tatsächliche Lauf der Dinge” (“The Way Things Really Go”), colorfully painted domino pieces trail on the floor, continuing the whimsical color blocks Bowes has appended to the text panels. But while in the seminal Fischli and Weiss’ video piece Bowes is referencing objects react to each other seamlessly, almost magically, the domino pieces here stand too far apart to interact – much less communicate in any meaningful way.
Becket Bowes has exhibited his work at Sculpture Center, Queens, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and Swiss Institute, New York, among other venues. He earned his MFA from Hunter College, and lives and works in New York.
Images and text provided by Rachel Uffner Gallery