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“Chinese Ferrari, body juice, easy abs diet, ryan gosling silicone core, diskjet 3520; first 500 get a free hoodie,” Chris Dorland’s current show at Five Eleven gallery is as humorous, complex, and steeped in contemporary media as its title suggests. Whitewall met up with the artist to talk about consumer culture, the Internet, and the definition of painting in the 21st-century.
WHITEWALL: This space is quite small, did that affect what you chose to show?
CHRIS DORLAND: This is from a body of work that relies on found magazine pages so it’s kind of dictated because they tend to be that size. That was the original idea that Bethanie [Brady, founder of Five Eleven] approached me with – to show these works in particular. We developed the idea of doing something quite small and intimate with something quite large. I like that these paintings start to approach billboard size. That’s what they’re referencing, things like exterior advertising.
WW: Is this larger work (Untitled (7 things a hypochondriac would never say)) a combination of printing and painting? Or is it just printing?
CD: There’s actually no painting on that. I think of these as being an amalgamation of painting, so I’m taking old paintings that get recycled and scanned and put through the computer and reprinted, and then using elements that would constitute a painting. So there’s raw canvas, primed canvas, all the things that go into a painting, but in the end, for this piece, there was actually no physical painting involved.
But there is no question as to what it is. It doesn’t have any paint on it but it’s still as much a painting as anything else I’ve ever made that I would call a painting.
WW: So how do you define painting?
CD: To me, painting in this day and age is something that hangs on a wall and is delineated by it’s own borders, so it’s planar. It’s not something that would ordinarily be under glass like a photograph, and it’s an image that’s framed by it’s own edges.
WW: What caused the shift from physical painting to painting as photo-collage in your work?
CD: Originally what started all of this is I was looking at World’s Fair pavilions, especially the ones that were built in the 50s and 60s. The idea of these World’s Fairs was a utopian look into the future. But I was looking at it retrospectively, so these things were falling apart in cities since a lot of the sites were still there but kind of rusted out and broken down. I saw that as kind of a broken dream of the future because they were predicting a future that is now past. I would look for books to use as source material, like architectural models and photographs of the World’s Fairs. I would actually only use one image in a book, because I was looking for specific images of architecture, and I started to see that as wasteful.
The paintings themselves were trying to make a commentary on the future and the byproduct of a utopian future, which is actually kind of wasteful. And I felt that my own process was wasteful because to get to this one image I would not use the whole book. So that’s how I started doing these works, I started cutting out pages from books that I couldn’t use to make paintings, but I could make something else out of them. So the original impulse behind these was like image garbage or image debris.
WW: You’ve described your work as both a “celebration of our culture of consumption and a warning to us all.” How do you navigate that dichotomy both with your practice but also as an individual?
CD: I have mixed feelings about it, honestly. I think why I’ve sometimes used the word celebration is that I don’t want to put negative work back into the world, and I don’t want my work to be particularly depressing, but at the same time I find myself going through the world and being a little bit bummed out by all that I see. I don’t want to be totally negative, and I try to find beauty in the positive, but there’s this certain gallows humor where you might as well make some jokes because there isn’t much else you can do. I feel pretty powerless in it all.
I think that actually just being able to make someone laugh or smile is pretty powerful, and I always enjoy when I respond to art that way.
WW: The title of this show is pretty in keeping with the humor embedded in these works.
CD: The title is a really important part of the show, and it’s this really weird association play that just started and then turned out to be longer and longer. Spam would be another inspiration for the title. 7 things a hypochondriac would never say is titled after a Buzzfeed line, and I think that’s where the title comes from: these sort of stupid lists that bombard us with both information and non-information at the same time. I want the title to be both specific, where you’re like “Ryan Gosling Silicone Core, that makes sense” but somehow you’re hard-pressed to actually know what that is. Same with the Chinese Ferrari, you’re like, “Yeah totally, Chinese Ferrari,” but then you’re like “…what is a Chinese Ferrari?” It could literally be a Chinese Ferrari, it could be some weird sex move [laughs].
WW: What artists have you been influenced by, and have your influences developed over the course of your practice?
CD: I feel like from the very beginning of being an art student, it’s been Post-War painting. And whether it’s Abstract Expressionism or everything beyond it, I see my work as very much trying to be an amalgamation of Post-War painting, so you can look at it and be like, “Oh it’s like John Baldessari and Richard Prince and Robert Ryman,” and I think that’s okay. I think even ten years ago people would not want to get so contemporary in their references, but I think of this work as being like a hyper-flattening of everything about painting. I want to bloat it up as much as possible and then kind of flatten it out.
If you work in Photoshop, usually you create layers, so you have multiple layers that you can turn on and off. You’re going to have an image, you’re going to have text, you’re going to have maybe an overlay, and all those become layers. When you’re done with it you do something called rasterizing, which is flattening all the layers. I think that this work is rasterizing history and time, so there’s a compression and flattening that happens.
Chris Dorland’s “Chinese Ferrari body juice, easy ads diet, ryan gosling silicone core, deskjet 3520; first 500 get a free hoodie,” is on view through April 18, 2015.