M+B is pleased to present Phil Chang: Pictures, Pigment and Canvas. This is the artist’s third show with the gallery, and runs from March 5 through April 2, 2022, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 5 from 6 to 8 pm.
Phil Chang's work is part of a decades-long conversation within conceptual art that approaches contemporary questions of production, circulation, and consumption. Working primarily with photography and photo-based materials, Chang carves out spaces of contemplation, instances of reprieve for a moment caught in the incessant flow of digital imagery. Chang poses the following question: if a photograph could only be useful as a work of art, then what would it look like? Strip away photography's utility, its power to document and represent, its easy reproducibility, and see what’s left. For Chang, this question is a starting point, not an end. By reducing his reliance on representational imagery, Chang wipes a layer of cultural static away, clearing space for a deeper consideration of the networks of materials and social relationships hiding behind the lens. By approaching photography as just art, Chang exposes the variety of purposes held within a single art object: decoration, occasion for thinking, inspiration, occasion for gathering, commodity, occasion for working, financial asset, and occasion for speculation. Chang approaches each piece with a self-aware sense of conviction, marking himself as equally complicit in the chains of supply and demand that his work throws into question.
In Pictures, Pigment and Canvas, Chang presents “photographs,” not photographs. Each work is created by applying inkjet printer ink onto inkjet canvases manually with foam sponges, producing evocatively sparse swipes of color and texture. The works include inkjet canvases mounted to Dibond and framed with brushed aluminum, stretched canvases, and unstretched canvases adhered directly to the walls of the gallery. These latter works show the marks necessary for trimming the canvases to produce rectilinear shapes. To make these works, Chang enlisted the help of Paradise Framing and Studio 5150 as service providers.
Inkjet printing irrevocably changed the printed form of photography, providing the photographer with a set of available and efficient tools that allow for the mass production of images that are free from the conditions of light sensitivity. Chang’s works undo inkjet printing’s reproducible ubiquity, transforming its knack for digital precision into the chance outcome of a single stroke of the hand. Chang is not trying to tear contemporary photography apart, but rather uncover new value from within it as a way to recuperate photography’s relevancy. The materials he works with carry specific histories and roles within the cycles of reproduction and consumption – as brands, they have proper names: Epson, Canson, and Vermont PhotoInkjet. Each canvas bears the title of the materials with which it was produced, creating a through line between Chang’s works and the larger networks that make photography possible, as if to indict the economy of consumption with one hand and express an indebtedness to it with the other.
Pictures, Pigment and Canvas is an attempt to address our political surroundings by stripping away the din of fatigue and moral outrage that make up our present moment, honing in on economic networks and relationships that evade easy representation. Embodying both a careful attention to material and an empathetic tolerance for contradiction, Chang crafts works that marry brisk, paired-down beauty with thoughtful considerations of the political and economic social fabric. It is precisely this sense of plurality of meanings and registers which animates Chang’s work, building up each canvas into robust gestures of contradiction and interconnectedness.
Phil Chang (b. 1974, Elkhart, IN) received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. Recent solo exhibitions include The Suburban, Milwaukee, WI and Cache, Active at LA><ART. Recent institutional group shows include Light Play: Experiments in Photography, 1970 to the Present at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Keeper of the Hearth: Picturing Roland Barthes’ Unseen Photograph, Houston Center for Photography, Houston; A Matter of Memory: Photography as Object in the Digital Age at the George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; About Time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Unfixed: The Fugitive Image at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Transformer Station, OH. Chang’s work has been written about in ARTFORUM, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Aperture, Blind Spot, IMA Magazine and C-Photo. Other published texts include those with Charlotte Cotton, James Welling and Walter Benn Michaels, and an artist’s book Four Over One, published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Curatorial projects have included Soft Target at M+B, Affective Turns? at Pepin Moore and Seeing Sight at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. His work is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the California Museum of Photography, UCR ARTS. Phil Chang lives and works in Los Angeles.
Location: M+B, 612 North Almont Drive, Los Angeles, California 90069
Show Title: Phil Chang: Pictures, Pigment and Canvas
Exhibition Dates: March 5 – April 2, 2022
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 5, 6 – 8 pm
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm, and by appointment
Social Media: @mblosangeles @philchang_
For all inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.