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Comic Future Primer: Walead Beshty

19 Sep 2013

https://www.ballroommarfa.org/?attachment_id=11695

Unmasking (Action Comics 379, Adventure Comics 349, Alpha Flight 12B, Batman 321, Batman 458, Batman 506, Batman Family Giant 9, Betty and Veronica 117, Black Magic 1A, Black Magic 1B, Black Orchid 428, Black Orchid 429, Blackhawk 210B, Blood and Shadows, Bob Hope 93, Boris The Bear 11, Brave and the Bold 176, Captain America 311, Captain America 320B, Captain Planet 800, Daredevil 241A, Daredevil 358. Detective Comics 507, Detective Comics 407B, Excalibur, Gen13 53, Giant Teen Titans Annual, Green Lantern 69, Hawkeye 1, House of Mystery 237, Iron Man 103, Jimmy Olsen 59, Jimmy Olsen 79, Jimmy Olsen 111)
2012
41 Comic books
each: 14 1/4 x 18 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Before the opening of Comic Future on September 27th, we thought it might be helpful to provide some background reading and information about some of the artists and their work represented in the show. First up is this introduction to the work of Walead Beshty from Ballroom’s intern, Rebecca McGivney, who writes here about Beshty’s 2012 work, Unmasking.

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Unmasking is composed of isolated panels from 41 comic books, each depicting a character removing his/her disguise either forcibly or voluntarily. Although a compelling piece on its own, it is made even more arresting when one consider how much it differs from the rest of Beshty’s oeuvre. Beshty, who is most-well known for his colorful photograms and glass boxes transported in FedEx containers, rarely uses found material, instead preferring to emphasize the human touch in his work. Although Unmasking appears to dramatically differ from Beshty’s previous pieces, thematically the work fits in with Beshty’s continued interest in the demystification of the artist’s process and the subject of transition.

In Unmasked, Beshty’s interests are made manifest through characters who are literally revealing what lies beneath the surface. Often caught in the midst of removing their disguises, these subjects are seen in transition; they are in between two completely separate identities and it is this in between space that interests Beshty fully. As he notes in his 2008 article “Abstracting Photography”:

The world we see from transitional spaces— the world outside the window; the world from the perspective of escalators, people movers, monorails, and shopping centres—has become an intellectual bogeyman, a storage container for all our
alienations. These infrastructural interstitial zones stand as compromised, indeterminate way stations between chimerical destinations. As an open field they occupy the space of bare fact, which we should approach with suspicion, but they are also unprocessed, and this has potential.

Beshty fixates on the liminal, on the moment of flux, because of its “potential” for transformation. It is this interest in transition that makes Beshty, and particularly Unmasking, such a great fit for Comic Future, an exhibit composed of works, which examine our (often) grim future through a cartoonish and/or ironic lens. Beshty’s pieces are always dynamic, either themselves in transition or depicting places or objects that are, but even more relevant to the exhibition, their final outcome is often unknown to the artist, his work being shaped by a symbiosis of chance and human (the artist’s) intervention, leaving their fates as uncertain as ours.

For more reading on Beshty and his process, particularly on his interests in the transitory, read Jonathan Nisbet’s excellent 2011 article for X-Tra. An excerpt: