John Wood & Paul Harrison
Nov, 18, 2010 – Jan, 15, 2011
Young Projects is proud to present the first monographic exhibition in Los Angeles of John Wood and Paul Harrison. Based in Bristol, England, the duo are considered two of the most innovative and successful artists working within the realm of video art today, with over 100 exhibitions to their credit, and inclusion in such prestigious collections as MoMA, Tate, Centre Pompidou, FNAC, and dozens of private collections worldwide.
Deadpan consists of over 15 works spanning the years 1993 – 2009, ranging from single to four-channel works; from early performative pieces to more recent studio projects. Throughout that period they have developed an approach that combines performance art, minimalist sensibilities, conceptual practices, painterly effects and experimental film ideas with uncommon flair. More often than not, that culminates in a form of video that is, on the one hand, highly architectural in its mise-en-scene and formal elegance, while on the other, utterly hilarious in its unexpected, performative aspects.
For first time viewers, the latter might be it might be the most conspicuous aspect to their work, and indeed one can clearly sense an appreciation for Buster Keaton in the duo’s embrace of chance happenings, comedic timing, and their clever manipulation of space and time. What’s more, the artists themselves often appear performing mundane actions—often with deadpan expressions—which in turn leads to comedic results. Thus performance traditions are routinely hinted at, especially the tradition of using the body as the site for the absurd, and especially in relationship to West Coast conceptualism of the 1960s.
But as critic Jonathan Marshall writes, Wood & Harrison (who were born in 1969 and 1966 respectively) tend to create work that is animated by a dialectic, which is defined by absence as much as presence, randomness as much as control, construction as much as deconstruction. Countless hours go into the production of each piece, even if the work only lasts a few seconds on screen, and each moment is defined by a specific set of physical and/or conceptual limitations. A length of rope, a certain air pressure or gravitational pull can be the single element that leads to what may or may not be a series of unpredictable results. That gives their work a graceful austerity, where, like other conceptual artists dealing with the performative and the humorous (Wegman, Baldessari, Nauman, Ader), the notion of happenstance is formalized and aestheticized to perfection.
Yet most of all, one should come away from Deadpan with a better understanding of video as a studio practice, much like painting, sculpture or photography. Both artists were trained as painters long before they picked up a camera, and one can see throughout the exhibition, a pronounced interest in composition, color, contour, pattern, and other painterly interests. Each work explores the surface plane as the depth, and the surface plane is often defined by chance gestures or marks. Thus, in the end, each video tends to be much closer to a still photograph or painting than a traditional video or film.
(3:16 mins) single channel 16:9
(3:39 mins) single channel 4:43
(Wall Work 16:9)
(3:02 mins) S-VHS single channel 4:3
66.86 Meters, 2004
(3:28 mins) single channel 4:3
(4 Small Monitors)
Six Boxes, 1997
(6:20 mins) 4:3
(27:02 mins) single channel 4:3
Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things), 2001
(21:59 mins) 1 or 6 or 26 channels 4:3
(Projection on mirror)
(2:56 mins) single channel 4:3
(Free standing roll-up screen)
(0:40 seconds) single channel 4:3
Night and Day, 2008
(24:18 mins) single channel 16:9
(Wall monitor in frame)
One More Kilometer, 2009
(2:25 mins) 16:9
(Large 16:9 projection back gallery)
(49.40 mins) 1 or 4 channels 4:3
(1:15) (U-Matic Cassette)
2 Wall Sections, 1998
(1:00) 1998 (DV Cam) 4:3
(Back Projection Room)
Of Knowing Where You Are, 2009
(12 mins) silent, single channel 4:3