It would be fair to say the artist Chris Marklay’s work collapses the technique of collage into an ongoing allegorisation of the evanescence of time. His collages are memento mori that mainly work when they unfold on time which means that they need not to be frozen as it happens in the medium of painting where temporality is such a difficult thing to depict. Even though, Daniel Zalewski with The New Yorker magazine called him ‘the most exciting collagist since Robert Rauschenberg’, I must confess my disappointment with the show that is taking place a Paula Cooper Gallery.
Marklay loves to make something new by lovingly vandalizing something old. He remixed music—turning it inside out to foreground crackles and hisses—and he remixed objects that created music. He’d based dozens of projects on the vinyl records alone: scarring them with images, using a phonograph stylus like a lathe; melting them into cubes; piling them into menacing black columns. He even strapped a revolving turntable to his chest, as if it were a guitar, and videotaped himself whaling on a Jimi Hendrix LP. He says that his governing impulse as an artist has been to take “images and sounds that we’re all familiar with and reorganize them in a way that is unfamiliar.” Marclay, a fixture of the East Village music scene of the eighties, was particularly renowned as an avant-garde d.j.—in the late seventies, he’d been one of the first people to scratch records in performance, treating the turntable as an instrument. During sets, he sometimes smashed LPs, Frankensteined shards together with tape, and played the hiccupping results
All these came to fruition when in 2011 he wo the Golden Lion award at the 2011 Venice Biennale forThe Clock which is a cinematic tour de force that unfolds on the screen in real time through thousands of film excerpts that form a 24-hour montage.In spite of this, a big part of Marclay’s works has been objectual and has not receive the same kind of attention than his videos and conceptual work. There is a reason for this: Marclay’s physical collages are dependably clever, but their impact fade once you get the joke. I don’t think it is too far fetched to say that his work gains depth when it includes the variable of time. Adding the dimension of time infuses Marclay’s wit with drama. His best sculpture, “Tape Fall” (1989), had hinted at this potential. A reel-to-reel tape player, perched high on a ladder, plays water sounds, but the takeup reel is missing, so the tape cascades to the ground. The sculpture was shown, last year, again at Paula Cooper Gallery, in Chelsea; as the weeks passed, the tape pile rose balefully, like sand in an hourglass, and the burbling contraption became a relentless memento mori.
The problem with Marclay’s current show at Paula Cooper is that it is composed of large paintings and this is a medium that find it almost impossible to convey an idea of temporality through collage. These particular images feature onomatopoeias that evoke the sound of painting actions (SPLORCH! SLLURP! WHOOMPH!) and allude directly to Pop culture through Lichtenstein, mainly. Although they are formally collages, they work as abstract paintings in which the onomatopoeias appear embedded in big blobs of paint that allude to Abstract Expresionism, I supposed. Although it thematically fits into his ongoing investigation into the relationship between sound and image, they appear as one trick ponies to the point of the ornamental. Nothing connotes temporality in these images and they look as if were made in a rush to make quick money, if you ask me. Just a thought.