LOS ANGELES — Walead Beshty’s solo exhibition at Regen Projects, Selected Bodies of Work, claims to “address bodies and labor as they are rendered visible in or on the art object.” Where and what are these bodies and labor? Similar questions come to mind when considering the pop art sculptures of Jeff Koons, but in Koons’s work, we see only the finished, gleaming product (and can assume the artist-as-laborer is hardly receiving the one-on-one interaction that an artist assistant job typically offers). In Beshty’s work, some of the labor involved is rendered visible — smudged hands appear on the surface of his copper surrogates and in the ink of his floor-to-ceiling contact prints. But the work always belongs to Beshty, the artist/director of the show. His name is on each piece. To call them collaborative creations — of both the people who made the appropriated original objects and the artmakers themselves — would offer authorship to someone who’s not the artist. Is Beshty replicating the same conditions of the capitalist system that he’s critiquing?
We don’t know the inner operations of Beshty’s studio (they’re not listed on NYFA like Jeff Koons’s). Yet from the handprints, we know that many were involved at least in the transporting and installing of Beshty’s six slick 10’-x-5’ copper surrogates. Shiny ornaments fixed to the gallery walls and ceiling, they feature glossy surfaces that create a room of mirrors, jagged reflections performing a dance with the contact prints, which look like giant photo test strips sliced, laid out, and hung up. Spike-like chunks of silver sculptures also dot the gallery. These aluminum remnants were ripped from the larger “bodies” of the copper sculptures.
Beshty also brings literal bodies into his work to drive home the point. Hypersexualized images of women are snipped from Mexican tabloids and, released from their textual accompaniment, hung out to dry on silver metal rods. Women’s bodies are fodder for a capitalist system that uses them to sell any number of commodities. The labor is dirty already.
“Aggregate XXX (August 19th – 23rd, Cerámica Suro, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico)” is a molten conglomeration of ceramic slip cast remnants, glaze, firing plate, and steel, all arranged in a giant mound and appearing as if messily dripped with paint. Smaller ceramic hills — also titled with “Aggregate” and a roman numeral — dot the landscape of the main room. These are the results of Beshty’s work with discarded byproducts at Cerámica Suro, in Guadalajara, Mexico, from August 19 to 23. What is four days of aggregating worth in art market terms? That commodity exchange price is yet to be determined.
From there, Beshty moves on to technology. At the front of the gallery, we see a collection of printer and computer parts hanging horizontally and vertically on silver rods — works with titles such as “Screibmachine (Canon MX310 Multfunction Printer),” “Royal (Apple Power Mac G5),” and “Die gekränkte Braut (Epson Perfection 1990 Prop J1313B).” Each object is no longer functional in its original form, for its guts have been ripped out and processed into art, dangling pieces of tech waste. Beshty is commenting on a consumer culture always searching for a newer, faster version of something that processes more, offers more bells and whistles, and makes more obsolete, faster.
A work featuring an Apple MacBook laptop is a perfect companion to the dismantled Apple Power Mac G5. Rather than strip the laptop’s insides, Beshty or the labor he hires has drilled a circular hole through the Apple logo. It’s a good thing work conditions are improving for the Chinese laborers behind this object-turned-art.
Walead Beshty: Selected Bodies of Work runs through April 5 at Regen Projects (6750 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles).