Originally exhibited in 2013 as part of an exhibition at Piper Keys, London, Keith Farquhar’s Ken and Cady Noland (2013/18) is part-object of disinterested contemplation, part-children’s face-painting station. It overlays the visual grammar of a ‘seminal’ Modernist painter with that of a cult postmodern artist – the latter being the daughter of the former. Their combination acts as a means to articulate the changing codes of etiquette that condition our viewing of contemporary art.
A substantial portion of Ken and Cady Noland is taken up by a slightly larger than life reproduction of Kenneth Noland’s 1961 painting Epigram. Here a screen-resolution image of this canvas has been transferred onto two pieces of birch plywood using a direct UV printing process. The pictorial elements of this image, enlarged to a scale far beyond that of their intended use, are so pixelated as to be barely legible. Their spectral facture instead alludes to the digital economy in which abstract paintings now commonly circulate as photographic images, serving as backdrops for selfies on Instagram, or as fodder for other social media content.
Also appropriated within the work is a recurring motif found in Cady Noland’s sculptures of the mid to late 1990s, that of five-holed wooden stocks employed as a method of public punishment, although in this new context the holes bear a greater resemblance to the cut-out hoardings commonly found in village fêtes or at beachside resorts. Whereas Noland’s original artworks refer to the intertwining of violence and consumer spectacle in American culture, Farquhar’s re-imagined version speaks more to changing conceptions of the gallery space and its role as a site of education and leisure.
At the time her father painted Epigram Cady Noland would have been approximately five years old. This is the age group to which Ken and Cady Noland is primarily addressed. Incised into its surface at a child’s height the stocks serve as apertures through which a face-painting workshop will be held during the exhibition preview. This workshop and supporting documentation are integral to the piece. As an object designed to be performed the leaning structure is intended to accumulate children’s paint-covered handprints, and over time these incidental marks will assume a corporeal realness when contrasted with its digitally printed facade. This is not without a certain irony, given that Cady Noland has more recently become known for disavowing a number of her works that have appeared on the secondary market bearing traces of damage and careless handling.
By replacing the rarefied pleasure of aesthetic connoisseurship with the fun of a family day-out, what Farquhar’s relational gesture mirrors is a growing perception of the gallery as a more democratic, friendlier space. Previously seen as locations devoted to isolated contemplation, galleries are now promoted as spaces of interaction, and yet are often experienced vicariously through documentation proliferating online. These are contradictory factors that this exhibition actively incorporates as operational principles.
Text by Neil Clements.