THE DAILY PIC: To make a new series of pieces now on the walls of Petzel Gallery in New York, the artist Walead Beshty first replaced the gallery’s normal desktops with polished copper. As dealers and their minions sat at their computers, bodily oils, spilled coffees and other office corrosives tarnished the bright metal, leaving a Taylorist record of these workers’ labors. The altered copper sheets were then hung in Petzel’s nearby gallery spaces, making the path between production, display and sale shorter than it has ever been. (Although you could argue that, for these pieces to exist, sales have to come first in that list.)
Beshty has always worked in photography’s most expanded field, and his copper pieces fit this practice. Like conventional photographs, they provide a direct, indexical trace of the world around them. They also expand the reach of that trace so that it records the economic activity that makes their own existence possible. This triggers several role reversals: Hands-off dealers become hands-on makers, “signing” their work in fingerprints, and the people usually charged with keeping art pristine are here made to sully it. I worry about the salesman who normally supplies Petzel with white-cotton gloves.