Francisco Ugarte’s Slides Project an Old-Time View of Abstraction

THE DAILY PIC: At Cristin Tierney, Francisco Ugarte's carousel projectors revisit abstraction's fate.

THE DAILY PIC (#1609): Walk into the show of Mexican artist Francisco Ugarte at Cristin Tierney gallery in New York, and you hear the sound of nostalgia: Kodak slide projectors, which went extinct in 2004, chug through carousels full of Ugarte’s abstract imagery, made by sticking colored taped directly onto blank slides. Today’s Pic consists of photos of two of Ugarte’s projections, printed up as ink jets.

The nostalgia of the equipment bleeds over into the imagery: Abstraction, no matter how attractive, reads as definitively past in Ugarte’s work. Its true survival depends on photographic reproduction, which saves its life but reduces its true particularity, turning objects into immaterial images.

This has been true at least since the advent of the undergraduate slide lecture and good color reproduction in art-history books. Today, watching most visitors to MoMA taking in every masterpiece via a smartphone screen, you have to wonder if there’s any future left for truly material art.

But here’s the funny thing: Even as Ugarte brings home the idea that all art has become photographic, you can’t help be aware of the definitive materiality of his show’s clunky old equipment and supplies. Maybe the rapture is still a ways off.

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