PICTURES, solo exhibition by Brian Rideout,Tile Blush gallery, 2019

Collection As Such
Miles Gertler

Rideout’s expanding body of American Collection Paintings documents the growing economy of collection itself. Alongside a familiar catalogue of modern artworks, his recent canvases are populated by postmodern buildings and interiors designed by the likes of Arquitectonica and Charles Jencks, and objects and furniture authored by Ettore Sottsass and Peter Eisenman. This points to a moment in the 1970s when design began to enter the American art market as a new category for collection, heralded in particular by the first exhibition of architects by Leo Castelli in 1977­.*

solo exhibition by Brian Rideout
solo exhibition by Brian Rideout

Castelli’s show began to establish not only the models, drawings, and other documents of architectural production as valued artifacts, but increasingly also the homes designed and built for collectors, aesthetes, and the “corporate Medici”* in Connecticut, Long Island and other such places within reach of New York. Ada Louise Huxtable’s review of the exhibition in the New York Times observed that “architecture is being perceived as an important art form now, equal to and intricately connected with painting and sculpture …They create their own images; in fact, they create their own worlds.”* Castelli’s gallery was where so many of contemporary painting and sculpture’s biggest names were represented and their output is well represented on the walls of Rideout’s domestic scenarios—several of which embody the architectural milieu of that moment.

In these renderings of conspicuously authored architectural specimens and their contents— collections of art, objets, and books housed within the domestic scene—he demonstrates and multiplies the very collectability of his subjects through the medium of painting (that most collected of media). In so doing he not only reifies the expansion of the market, but reflexively repackages the full suite of collectibles into a single unit. Rideout follows this up with 1:1 reproductions of Taschen monographs on canvas, which in reducing the books to their covers suggests the strictly symbolic value that this category of cultural artifact tends to occupy for so many who own them. That being said, Rideout’s preoccupation with these exalted interiors, mined as they are from interior design magazines and coffee table books, doesn’t entirely orbit around the significance of the material exhibited therein. He plays a double game: negating the specificity of the content itself and adopting the scene as still life and pictorial challenge. One might consider this against a broader tradition of replicas and forgeries in painting, like Julian Schnabel’s much-mentioned copies of Picasso: “‘I was at Cy Twombly’s house once, and I saw this very beautiful Picasso drawing… and I said to Cy, ‘Where’d you get that?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I made that,’ so I figured, okay, I’ll try to make one, too.’”*

This is alluded to in Rideout’s naming convention, whereby the particulars of the room are only occasionally and parenthetically mentioned, for instance, “American Collection Painting 32 (Rothko)” or “American Collection Painting 37 (Memphis).” The seriality of his endeavor and brevity of his nomenclature denies the greats much in the way of further attention and indulges instead a gioco serio perhaps best exemplified by the ultimately figurative or even diagrammatic, miniature replicas of abstract expressionist artworks, reduced from magnum opus to décor and prop. “The painting becomes purely an object,” he notes.

What takes precedence along with the technical qualities of Rideout’s facsimile is the source itself: a book or magazine spread sometimes made more visible by the inclusion of a caption and page number; the limit of the canvas in these paintings indicates the edge of the page from which the image was lifted. Books take on a slightly subversive, enigmatic presence in his work when they’re made tacitly and only occasionally visible. This in turn points to a collective fascination with a period in time made material by Rideout’s paintings but perhaps more frequently demonstrated by the circulation of many of the same scanned source images in social media and the blogosphere. It would be inaccurate to say that each of his images is immediately pulled from a book, as many of Rideout’s arrive as jpegs, long since divorced from the page. He is unsentimental about this and other details like the exact replication of color temperatures. He prefers instead to make a new painting in absolute terms that’s ultimately un-precious toward its referent but enjoys the aura of its subjects all the same.

Here lurks a clever paradox in his body of work: in further objectifying a suite of works and architecture already neutralized through the acts of collection and valuation, Rideout can variously claim to critique and participate in the culture of the blue-chip art world so ubiquitously pictured in his oeuvre. In this sense, his work could be read as double-booked, but Rideout makes no overt claims to a politics that can’t play both sides and in so doing reflects the complicated culture of acquisition to which his paintings ultimately belong.

1 ­­Sylvia Lavin has produced excellent research around Leo Castelli’s shows on architecture in her recent counter-histories of postmodernism. One can consult the collateral media from Architecture Itself and Other Postmodernist Myths, exhibited at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in 2018 for more information on architects of this period and their material and procedural practices.
2 “Architectural Drawings as Art Gallery Art.” Ada Louise Huxtable. New York Times. October 23, 1977, Section D, Page 27
3 Ibid.
4 Meredith Mendelsohn, “Everyone Has an Opinion about Julian Schnabel. But Do We Really Know His Work?” Artsy. May 8, 2018.

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