Artie Vierkant, Usage Pending @Higher Pictures

JTF (just the facts): A total of 4 large scale color photographs, hung unframed against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are UV prints on dibond, with protective adhesive paper coverings, made in 2014. Each is sized 81×81 and is unique. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: It’s a visual byproduct of our litigious digital age: the random footage of a girl in a t-shirt or a guy in a baseball hat, the logos and brands pixelated into a soft blur to prevent infringing on copyrights or inadvertently incurring royalties. Artie Vierkant wades into this netherworld of digital rights management with his newest artworks, building up a series of his Image Objects based on the Polaroid corporate logo, but without having completely negotiated the required permissions to use the instantly recognizable array of rainbow colored boxes. The result is a show of artworks that haven’t been approved (the Polaroid name is actually redacted from the press release) and that we can’t entirely see, a kind of limbo of obfuscation.

Vierkant has been exploring the edges of photographic physicality for a number of years now. His Image Objects are just that – abstract often geometric images generated in Photoshop which are printed out and mounted on thick sintra or dibond, giving them a looming presence on the wall much like a shaped canvas. In this series, he’s rotated the Polaroid logo (it’s normally green corner down) and then modified the grid with swirling gestural swishes, gradient fades, and more hard edged flares. He’s taken something corporate and made it a playground for expression, breaking down its rigidity with dissolving digital marks.

Vierkant’s concurrent interest in patents and intellectual property comes through in the paper scrim affixed to the face of each artwork. Without Polaroid’s approval, he can’t legally display the works, and so they hover behind a thin white veil, drifting in and out of a metaphorical fog. These rights issues give the works a added layer of uncertainty: if Polaroid doesn’t ultimately approve his usage, he can’t make any more of these grids and the paper coverings will have to stay, and if they do assent, the paper could be removed (or not) and Vierkant could continue the series without the interruption of the white film.

That decision tree of potential outcomes is a smart conceptual tent pole on which to hang these simple abstractions. It gives visual life to the complex arguments over artistic appropriation, reuse, and various other legal potholes influencing the production of contemporary art. These works cleverly acknowledge the limits imposed by the current legal system, shrewdly testing its boundaries while staying within the lines.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced at $23000 each. Vierkant’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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JTF (just the facts): Published by Aperture in 2024 (here). Softcover with dust jacket (17 x 22.5 cm), 124 pages, with 80 color and black-and-white reproductions. Includes a conversation between ... Read on.

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