On the occasion of Allan McCollum’s first US museum retrospective currently mounted at the ICA Miami, Petzel is pleased to present a special online exhibition of the artist’s rarely seen early paintings. Though the ICA Miami is temporarily closed due to COVID concerns, the show will be extended upon reopening and will subsequently travel to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis.
Over the past 50 years, McCollum has explored how objects achieve public and personal meaning in a world caught up in the contradictions between unique handmade artworks and objects of mass production. The works presented here focus on some of his earliest forays into art: the Bleach Paintings and Constructed Paintings. Dating from the early 1970s, they represent a key transitional moment anticipating the artist’s lifelong preoccupation with serial production and strategies of display.
In this series, system and chance combine to create distinct compositions imbued with unforeseen accidents that expose the materials and process of their own making. To create the Bleach Paintings, McCollum first used gray household dye on an unstretched piece of canvas. After masking a series of horizontal stripes with tape, he poured the bleach over the surface. Once the tape and bleach were removed, a linear pattern remained, formed by the disappearance of the gray dye where the bleach had soaked into the canvas.
Every project I've done has been an inquiry into
what it is we look for in an artwork and an attempt...
to relativize that process and put into context with
other objects that accomplish similar results.
The Constructed Paintings are additive and expansive. McCollum started with a series of small strips of dyed canvas and worked outward adhering the parts with industrial caulking in an overlapping manner that evoke the repetitive labor of brickwork or tilework. Because the cloth absorbs the dye unevenly, the edges and folds appear darker than the middle areas. He then caulked together the variegated strips, carefully juxtaposing dark, saturated pieces of canvas and much lighter passages to create the pattern. While his mechanized process remains consistent, no two Constructed Paintings are alike as he used a different systematic approach to arrive at a unique pattern for each work.
McCollum with Constructed Painting in his studio, Venice, California, 1971