Studio Visit (2001)

In her first online project for the Dia Center, video artist Cheryl Donegan invites us in for a "Studio Visit."

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Introduction to Cheryl Donegan's Studio Visit by Lynne Cooke

Painting is the touchstone for Cheryl Donegan's aesthetic, though she seldom produces work that resembles painting in any conventional sense. Indeed, her preferred media are video, performance, and installation, and her recurrent points of reference film, MTV video, modern decor, and the mass media. By such means, she addresses canonical subjects in modern painting: the traditional relation between artist and model, the purported autonomy and nonreferentiality of abstract art, the topos of the heroic, gestural painter. The grandiose rhetoric that obscures, inflates, or mythifies these subjects is deftly dismantled by an incisive irreverence, while the art itself is reaffirmed in an homage admittedly more spirited and saucy than reverential.

Invited to make a work for the world wide web Donegan characteristically decided to approach her abiding subject through a language specific to this new medium. By opting to use low tech devices peculiar to the web, such as gif animations, frames, refreshes, and mouse-overs, she focused on the basic tools integral to this medium.

Taking as her starting point a mainstay of art practice, the studio visit, Donegan offers viewers the opportunity to construct their own version of this highly codified ritual, albeit as an encounter at a virtual site. Drawing on some of her favorite motifs, the detergent bottle/camera, the signature mark of the artist, the stripe and other generic motifs from past painting, and elsewhere, in the commercial world, she presents viewers with a multitude of means by which to navigate this site and track their quarry. Just as studio visits typically meander episodically from topic to topic, or devolve into an erratic, unstructured archeological probe, or wander off into circuitous labyrinthine paths that bypass the artist's key concerns so viewers to Studio Visit may find themselves circling uncertainly round several miscellaneous subjects, returning unexpectedly to others, or becoming deflected, sidetracked or even stonewalled by others. That such visits abruptly interrupt the ongoing flow of creativity is wryly attested in the fractured sequence of photographs, shot over the course of a day of the artist alone at work in her studio, which unfold when the visitor occupies the site.

While in pursuit of those revelatory truths purportedly vouchsafed in a visit to the inner sanctum, the site and source of creativity, viewers are never permitted to lose themselves in an "authentic encounter": images of cameras and of film frames constantly indicate the mediated character of this meeting. What ensues may at first appear a disarmingly direct, playful and revealing introduction to this artist and her preoccupations, but as in all her practice, the work soon declares its self-reflexivity as the languages, genres, and codes of the art form are turned back on themselves. The search -- the process -- consequently proves more rewarding than any endpoint. Irrespective of whether solutions or revelations were sought, closures, for Donegan, are necessarily artificial, temporary, and provisional.

[This project was commissioned by Dia Center for the Arts.]

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