„I’ve always been interested in the ways
in which the ever-changing, and often
invisible, forces of abstraction in the world
affect the task of representing the human body.“
– Pieter Schoolwerth
Capitain Petzel is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition with Pieter Schoolwerth. In “Model as Painting”, the New York based artist presents new works from the same-titled series. The paintings, sculptures and drawings on view propose a new ‘model‘ to depict the compression of space and time that is an intrinsic aspect of digital communication. A film shown downstairs in the gallery, produced in collaboration with Alexandra Lerman, further articulates the artist’s specific and layered process.
Pieter Schoolwerth considers all aspects of this process to constitute an expanded definition of “painting”. Initially he produces a drawing from photographs he took of a human model casting shadows. After being blown up, the drawing serves as a template for building a multi-layered sculptural relief of the composition with foamcore. In a next step the artist takes a picture of this three dimensional ‘model’ and reworks the photograph with an image processing software that warps the images of the human body back into parts of the shapes of their cast shadows. After printing the resulting image file on canvas, Schoolwerth applies a final layer of gestural marks in oil paint. In the last stage of the process he goes back and formats the composition of the model as a multilayered series of digital files. With a computer-controlled router machine he then cuts these out in wood and reassembles them as a relief sculpture.
Ultimately, this sculpture exists both as a model to produce the paintings and as a sculptural memorial to the completed painterly process. As such, it imitates the technological production of the dematerialized digital space and emphasizes its roots in materialist, analogue referents like products of human labor. As one model often lends itself to producing a series of different paintings, it is comparable to a template or a device into which information is distributed and narrative is developed. Hence, the three-dimensional relief work furthers the idea of a model for a virtual space in painting.
Pieter Schoolwerth’s concerns lie in depicting the figure grounded in the ubiquitous glowing screens of digital technology. In his work, the photographed shadows represent the digital performance of the body. By compressing together the images of the body and those of its shadows he exposes the perception of an overall model of “you”. In this manner the artist examines how the mediated reality influences our sense of time, space, and our capacities for attention and the production of memory.
Nearly all models on display in the exhibition depict groups of people arguing in various settings. In one of the paintings from the series “A Couple Arguing” Schoolwerth swapped the logos of Berlin’s two local rival football teams representing the East and West. This compression confronts the viewer with the sacrilegious position of the potential of “liking” both teams, which symbolically and historically represent conflicting social classes in the city.
The set of the film “The Casting Agent” resembles the wall configuration in the gallery’s main hall and refers to specific series displayed on them. One is titled “Off the Grid”, which constitutes an expression attributed to people who intentionally live beyond the boundaries of the internet and thus, in a sense, resist the abstracting forces of digital technology. Through the allegory of the Rubik’s cube, Schoolwerth combines this resistance directly with the history of the grid in modernist painting. Representing the grid emerged as a method of flattening space and removing representation, narrative, and the figure.
The function of paint in the reductive logic of modernist abstraction is analogous to a new agency for paint as such, which arises within Schoolwerth’s set framework and at once “turns the rubric on its head.”1
Pieter Schoolwerth was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1970 and graduated form the California Institute of the Arts in 1994. He lives and works in New York City. His work has been included in group exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. From 2003 to 2013, Schoolwerth ran Wierd Records and the Wierd Party at Home Sweet Home on the Lower East Side of New York City. Wierd released music by 42 bands working in the genres of minimal electronics, post-punk, and noise, and produced over 500 live music, dj, and performance arts internationally (www.wierdrecords.com).
1 Warnock, Molly: „1000 WORDS: PIETER SCHOOLWERTH“, Artforum, January 2017