Tonight TonightOctober 28, 2013
A traditional narrative of art history culminates with Michael Fried’s “Art and Objecthood.” In this essay, Fried declares the end of painting at the monochrome: the complete distillation of painting to its most basic elements. For Fried, the monochrome marks the purest of aesthetic experiences as the viewer finds transcendence in the eternal present. In Tonight Tonight, Facundo Argañaraz questions the relevance of this history to contemporary art practice by employing industrial processes and found images to create deceptively clean-looking works that confound the viewer’s efforts to discern a deeper meaning. Argañaraz enters this historical conversation obliquely in the exhibition statement, referencing a quote from Jorge Luis Borges’ 1980 essay, “The Thousand and One Nights.” Borges contends that this historical tale acts as a metaphor for our paradoxically eternal yet evolving collective history. Tonight Tonight anchors the artist’s process and imagery in the familiar and industrial to argue for a contemporary rethinking of the monochrome.
Argañaraz’s paintings operate as variations on a theme: the palette shifts from lavender to grape, and in each work the artist crops the same two stock photographs slightly differently, rotating them around the aluminum surface. At first glance the surface of the object appears smooth. However, the intense, raking light of an LED sculpture leaning precariously in one corner of the gallery reveals the flaws and minute variations inherent to the artist’s process. Argañaraz improvised a way to print directly onto the aluminum panels using auto body paint. The result is an even color field, but for slight lines, crests and valleys that the LED lighting accentuates. Argañaraz also plays on the reflexivity of the paintings in the two photographs in the exhibition. Untitled (Two Columns) (2013) depicts the LED sculptures as pulsating bands of light down the center of the frame while Tourist (2013) features a band of light rather didactically pointing at one of the paintings.
This new work builds on ideas that Argañaraz first experimented with last year in Rapture Ready: Space Planning and Aesthetics at The Popular Workshop. In that exhibition, the artist examined the artifacts of modern domestic interiors—iconic mid-century furniture, plants, mirrors—to show what he argues is the decay of Modernism. The paintings in Tonight Tonight continue in this vein, riffing on the monochrome to supplant this historical form. Ultimately, for Argañaraz, grace is not found in presentness, but in confrontation.