Blogs and Instagram owe a lot to the photocopier. Before the Internet made digitizing and circulating images and content easy and immediate, underground views and alternative voices found an audience through self-published zines — which were printed and reproduced with a photocopier. And despite the ease of digital media, printed art and small books continue to grow and persist. Just consider how many international zine and art book fairs there are now, how popular Risograph printing has become, and how Frank Ocean and Kanye West have co-opted the format!
Part of the charm with zines is the way it experiments with crude print technology, wherein you can see the play of inks, exposure and distortion on varying paper stock. The Whitney Museum celebrates the artistic capacities of the humble photocopier in a new exhibition, Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966 — 1986. The show looks at the early experiments with the relatively new technology at the time. Taking the photocopier outside of its intended purpose of reproducing office documents, the artists in this show treat the photocopier like a camera to play with light, exposure and saturation. The resulting images are beautiful and at times abstract, surreal and even painterly — putting into question the low-culture status of mass-reproduction. The show runs at the Whitney Museum until March 2018.
Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966 — 1986
Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC
17 November 2017 — March 2018