Op-ish Art

Hirst's Signature Marks the Spot

The Daily Pic: Are the YBA's prints about the color of pigment, or the color of money?

02.12.13 11:36 PM ET

This is a Damien Hirst “spot” print called “Ferric Ammonium Citrate”, done in woodblock and now on view at Carolina Nitsch in New York, in a show of all 40 works from the same series. It’s easy to see the project as a retro return to formalist issues of shape and color, of figure and ground and of variations worked on a theme. Hirst’s simple instruction-set – never repeat a color; place the spots one spot’s-width apart – does in fact yield surprising perceptual dividends, if you spend the time looking. On the other hand, it may be more interesting to see the series as a riff on market dynamics – as much about how the woodcuts sell as about what they look like. Hirst’s signature may be the deciding factor in any reading: The only function it plays, on the surface of the prints – there are 48 of each image – is to tie each one to the history of unique, certified, hand-made (or hand-signed) commodities. The messy signature actually detracts and distracts from a formalist reading of these otherwise pristine works.  But then, plenty of rigorous formalists, including Barnett Newman, also defaced their works by signing the front. Does that make their paintings comments on the market, or sell-outs to it?

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