"Repetition and Difference" by Craig Owens.1985 Lisson Gallery, London Edition of 2000 copies.
Includes essay "Repetition and Difference" by Craig Owens. Pink wraps. 24 pp. 15 BW plates.
Like new condition. 5 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches.
What are your present paintings, if that's the right word, made of?
I usually call them Surrogates, or Plaster Surrogates, and they're made from an enhanced casting plaster called Hydrostone. I use plaster in general because of its many connotations, especially its connotation as a medium for mass-produced replicas.
When did you start the Surrogates?
They were started before I started calling them Surrogates. The notion, the desire to make a sign for a painting came first; then I went through a number of ways of trying to do that. I arrived at the present basic form -- the frame, the mat, and something inside the mat -- around 1978. At that stage, though, I was painting them monochromatically (red, green, purple, etc.): the frame, the mat, and what was inside were all the same colour. It wasn't until late 1979 or 1980 that I began separating the frame from the centre, and painting the centre black.
How carefully do you arrange the Surrogates on the gallery wall?
In my arrangements, I'm only aiming to create a conventional-looking installation. I work to get them fairly evenly-spaced: I try to put about 2 to 2 1/2 inches between them and I don't leave any gaping spaces, which is harder to do than you might think, because I'm working with so many odd sizes.
Why do you go for the cluttered, Salon-type look, which is hardly typical of modern galleries?
Initially, I made that choice (this was before I came to black centres, they were still solid colours) because I found that the things I was making weren't always being read as signs for paintings in the way I wanted them to be. They were too often being seen as minimalist objects, or something like that. There were a couple of decisions I made to enhance their identity as signs. One was to create the black centre and the brown frame, which made the reference very specific. The other was to create a type of installation which hyper-exaggerated the idea of an installation. As you say, this type of hanging isn't fashionable in the "modern" gallery, but there are many poster shops and other kinds of art stores which sell paintings like this today. So I also like my work installed this way because when it includes a reference to all types of painting, if not all types of framed object.
When I walked into your current show at the Lisson Gallery, the first feeling I had on confronting the Surrogates was of photographs. Maybe they reminded me visually of Polaroids that hadn't developed; but they also had for me some of the emotional qualities of photographs, especially a slightly nostalgic feeling.
As you know, I'm fond of photographs of artworks. My work often gets into the area of the relationship between a photograph of an artwork and an artwork. And, yes, I'm aware that the shiny black is reminiscent of a photograph, and I have the same sort of nostalgic reaction to my own installations as you describe in your own experience. Another reason that they feel like photographs to me is that they're mechanically-reproduced. They're made from moulds, which could be compared with the way that photographs are made from negatives. I feel that all replicas carry with them a feeling of poignancy, of sadness; a memory is a kind of replica, a sort of homeless phantom. I work to give my Surrogates the appearance of a precious thing, and that's the way I think of photographs too. Photographs are things that I love to handle -- they accrue that value of a remembrance that you want to touch.