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Studio Visit

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.]

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