Anyone who’s ever temped in an office or published a zine knows the marvelous idiosyncrasies of the Xerox machine: the sliding, illuminated beam that scans the images; the warm stacks of copies identical enough to be called “exact” yet often full of bleeding letters; shiny black-hole shadows and flecks of who-knows-what from the machine itself. In Run Off, now on view at MacArthur B Arthur in Oakland, curators Aaron Harbour, Jackie Im and Brandon Drew Holmes set out to investigate the nature of the “take away” art object, selecting artists to work with multiples and produce pieces for viewers to handle and take home. These artists get us to step back from the ever-present glow of intangible images on our phone and computer screens and into something slower and stranger: the scanning light of the photocopier.
Jon Kuzmich’s work Ethos, 2011, exploits the individual fingerprint of one copy machine, re-Xeroxing a page of text until the successive generations of copies warp and twist into a black Milky Way. Kuzmich displays not only the reams of paper he went through, but an animation of each copy scanned. The image melts frame by frame, from one sheet to the next, invoking the photocopier as a source of light and heat, or a tactile, irregular experience.
Cybele Lyle’s Untitled (De/Construction), 2011, presents a series of small, photographed architectural quotes tenuously assembled as a chaotic card house. Lyle lights the structure with a projected view of a white room. Visitors can take away panels, altering the sculpture and the play of light. At the opening exhibition, viewers took panels and also protectively reconstructed the teetering structure. Hunter Longe, working with large-scale photocopies in Reproduction Destruction Connection, 2011, offers viewers two poster-sized copies of a fuzzy, bar-shaped shadow. In the piece on view, two sheets are layered together, the top sheet rubbed translucent with olive oil to produce a ghostly, X-shape. Clean and minimalistic Longe’s piece speaks quietly to the power of customizing and altering mass-produced items.
What might be the strongest work in the show is perversely missing: David Kasprzak’s 10-22-38 Astoria, 2011, a copy of the first photocopy, was produced for the show in an edition of one. Snagged by a lucky visitor before most of the opening crowd arrived, its absence is a convincing argument for the power of the singular object, if not in the world, at least in our minds.