Kind of Blue

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The cyanotype, in some ways, fuses multiple modern impulses towards empirical knowledge. In this once novel medium, originally used to study the footprints of organic specimens and still common in kids' at-home science kits, objects are left on the surface of photosensitive paper to create a sort of blue and white negative of the item. But the image format also links itself to the study of architectural structures at the site of the blueprint and to the avant-garde's embrace of the color blue to study perception and the psychic effects of color. (Think Yves Klein.) So Christian Marclay's marriage of the cyanotype and the increasingly defunct magnetic cassette medium is just as philosophically rich as it is beautiful. And indeed, the artist's prints are extremely beautiful. On view through October 11th at New York's Paula Cooper Gallery is a solo exhibition of the artist's work. One of the pieces included, Allover, looks like an ocean of castaway cassettes and tape ribbons doing a sort of dead man's float, while the title reads as a double entendre--the image is a time-based collage (blurring representational epochs and the time it takes for the picture to seep into the paper) in which the tapes are "all over" the page and the title also signals the fact that the tapes' heyday is "all over." On the contrary, Marclay's heyday is still roaring, as the artist continues to find new ways to intertwine concepts of visual and sonic composition and to turn what might otherwise amount to commodity fetishism into poignant commentary on the evolution of technology and the narrative forms we've generated to record-keep our romance with it. - Marisa Olson


Image: Christian Marclay, Untitled (Madonna, Thy Word and Sonic Youth), 2008

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