Wade Guyton (b. 1972)
Wade Guyton (b. 1972)


Wade Guyton (b. 1972)
signed and dated twice 'Guyton 2008 2008' (on the overlap)
Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen
38 1/8 x 24 3/4 in. (96.7 x 62.7 cm.)
Executed in 2008.
Galleria Giò Marconi, Milan
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Working against the conventional idea of painting, Guyton executed Untitled by means of his Epson Stylus Pro 9600 industrial sized printer. Appropriating the fire motif from the cover of Steven King’s 1980 novel, Firestarter, Guyton manipulated the image, editing the digital file with the aid of Microsoft Word before printing it onto primed linen. Thus, this painting refigures reality through its monochromatic manipulation of a single motif: fire. Staccato flames vertically dance, sweeping across the canvas’ lower register, while embers rise, piercing the horizontal fields of darkness. The tattered edges of the book’s cover disrupt the printed grid, implying a lived existence. Yet, an inky freshness pervades, fixing the fire’s flares in the modern moment. In Untitled, Wade Guyton has effectively decontextualized the flame, transforming the natural and material source of heat into a display of human and mechanic ingenuity.
Just three years before he created the present work, Guyton altered his artistic practice and embarked upon a new phase of inkjet painting. Rather than assisting the machine by hand feeding the paper pages, Guyton began remotely coaxing his Epson to transfer selected desktop images directly onto the linen. Blurring, bleeding, and skidding resulted as the printer’s teeth repeatedly struggled to grip the primed material. Guyton’s Epson printed canvases are characterized by these pictorial incidents; they record the process of their automated, yet accidental, making.
Utilizing King’s ready-made book cover, Guyton embraces the post-Duchampian idea that an artist can innovate without creating much at all. Achieving his aesthetic vision through modern means, Guyton has internalized Warhol’s declaration that “Paintings are too hard…Machines have less problems” (A. Warhol, quoted in “Pop Art—Cult of the Commonplace,” TIME, May 3, 1963, p. 73). Guyton’s machine, his Epson printer, functions as an extension of the artist’s hand, overlaying monochrome flames onto the canvas’ black background, a result of a previous print run. Digitally manipulated flames smolder upward from the lower register, injecting a lived sense of urgency into the canvas.
Fire has a primal analogue; it both invokes fear and fortifies. Guyton has explored fire’s destructive and generative possibilities for over a decade, habitually altering the motifs color and scale. Commenting on his fire paintings, Guyton remarks: “There’s a great interaction between the image and the material in the fire paintings, which I didn’t predict, in the way the ink drips and runs... I was sweating and the paintings were melting” (W. Guyton, quoted in interview with D. De Salvo, in Wade Guyton OS, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 204).
Both the artist and the viewer are implicated in the embers of Guyton’s fire paintings. As Scott Rothkopf, the curator of Guyton’s Whitney Retrospective, reflects: “We are looking at Us in a fire painting after all” (S. Rothkopf, Wade Guyton, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2012, p. 25). Guyton’s digitally produced fire paintings, in particular Untitled, feel strangely familiar. Teetering on the boundary of accident and control, these canvases negotiate machine failure and manmade mastery. Just as the modern man, they struggle to come into existence.
Guyton has reinvented appropriation art through the lens of 21st century technology. Part abstract, part pop, Guyton’s creations frame the current technological and image cultures. His digital emblems—X’s, U’s, stripes, and fire motifs—generate their own logic. Untitled evidences the interaction between the digital and the manual, the contemporary and the modern, all while asserting the beauty in spontaneous pictorial incidents.

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