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"Hotzestrasse 23" (2014), silkscreen ink on canvas mounted to panel. Image: Courtesy artist


Five Things with Graham McDougal


The work of Sacramento-based artist Graham McDougal has been paired with Bayne Peterson in our current exhibition, A Dialogue on Distortion. In the words of exhibition curator and PC-G Director, Jamilee Lacy,

Graham McDougal’s silkscreens are as much paintings as they are prints, as much representational as they are abstract. Beginning with a few selections of text-based imagery from vintage art and design journals, the artist puts his source material through a series of mutations. Among other trials, he crops, scans, photocopies, digitally alters, combines, prints, and tweaks by hand the imagery’s most minute details to create dizzyingly complex compositions.

Below, McDougal has shared with us some of the books, exhibitions and films that have been the most enduring and influential on his practice.

Installation view “A Dialogue on Distortion | Graham McDougal and Bayne Peterson” at PC-G’s Hunt-Cavanagh Gallery, November 30 – February 24, 2018. Photo credit: Scott Alario.

1. A book that has been recently influential.

I picked up a copy of ADD METAPHYSICS, in the Motto bookstore at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts a couple of years ago. It’s a series of essays and assignments published by the Aalto University Digital Design Laboratory at the School of Engineering and the School of Arts, Design, and Architecture in Espoo Finland. The book discusses ideas of digital materiality and how we might think of production and examine our perception of objects. This includes a succinct essay by Graham Harman on the autonomous reality of objects. Jane Bennett writes about affect and effect by examining the hoarder’s relationship to objects. I don’t think there has been a direct influence on my work but it functions as a tool for understanding the world and the work of contemporary artists.

2. A book that you consistently think about.

The Library at UC Davis, the university where I teach, has the complete issues of Graphis magazine from 1944-86 and the Annuals published after these dates. I suppose this is a periodical I consistently revisit rather than a book. I was given a collection of these magazines spanning from the late 1960’s to late 1970’s and I use them as a historic document of international graphic design. They include analysis of the design identities for the Olympics and World Expositions. In these issues from this period it’s clear to see the change in graphic production from handmade, autographic processes to photographic methods. The advertisements that punctuate the articles are for the printing apparatus of the era. I’m thinking about these pages as historic examples that predict our use of Photoshop tropes and software. I often use these pages as a site from which I generate work in the studio; the Hotzestrasse series comes from these pages in Graphis magazine.

“Hotzestrasse 23” (2015), silkscreen ink and acrylic on panel. Image: Courtesy artist

3. A video that you’ve often shared with others.

When I worked at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston I visited the Artist’s Museum exhibition at the ICA, Boston with every studio course and seminar I taught over two semesters. The film I kept returning for was Cinema in the Round 2007 by Mark Leckey. It takes the form of an artist’s lecture as its structure to discuss relationships between cinema, art, sculpture and objects. It describes a sequence of historic and recent representations: images of Philip Guston’s paintings, Felix the Cat and Garfield, amongst others are introduced in relations to the image apparatus that brings them to form. Specific devices such as Disney’s multiplane camera and Masahiro Mori’s theory of the Uncanny Valley underpin sections of the film. I respond to the seemingly disparate subjects that Leckey connects throughout the film and it seems like a good model for students who are constantly asked to critique and analyze their work in relationship to things.

4. An exhibition that you still think about.

I often think about an exhibition I attended during the summer between high school and my foundation year in art school. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art exhibited a reconstruction of Kurt Schwitters, Hanover Merzbau (1923-37) as part of the exhibition The Romantic Spirit in German Art, held at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 1994. I’ve often thought that the reconstruction of the Merzbau was my first introduction to ideas about art making; the modern-interior, installation, simulation, the edition, and how we experience art through reproduction. The reconstruction by Peter Bissegger, built between 1981 – 83 was based primarily on three photographs taken by Wilhelm Redemann in 1933. There are two copies of Bissegger’s reconstruction, one on permanent view at the Sprengel Museum in Hanover. The Schwitters archive is housed here along with a second Merzbau, which travels for display in international exhibitions.

5. A living artist whose work you admire.

I’ve visited many of R.H. Quaytman’s exhibitions during the past decade and most recently, Morning, Chapter 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2017. I respond to the specificity of the work and its relation to a site or archive. The work is not easily defined in compartmentalized art-terms, although it tends to be referred to as painting. The work is installed in dialog with the gallery architecture or propped within itself as storage system, or it may be organized structurally as in the pages or chapters of a book.  It’s photographic, screen-printed, reminiscent of an LCD screen; it may be flat, three-dimensional, representational and abstract. The surface of the work may refer to illusionistic ideas about paint or gestures that document a mechanical facture, which occurs in the reproduction of images. Graphic techniques for constructing, viewing and experiencing art such as pattern and the lenticular are devices that connect the work to a history of representation. This points to references outside the work itself, perhaps within the knowledge of a viewer. I’m my experience of the work, I’m lead to this authorless painting in the collection of the National Galleries Scotland, Anamorphosis, called Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542 – 1587.

Installation views of R.H. Quaytman, Morning, Chapter 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2017. Photographed by Graham McDougal.

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