This exhibition of the Los Angeles-based artist Walead Beshty (b. London, 1976) brings together works from the past ten years in a site-specific installation designed for The Malmö Konsthall
Walead Beshtys works remind us how important it is to appreciate the transitory nature of daily life, especially its gaps, its pauses, and its moments of in-betweenness. This in-between time has always been central to Walead Beshtys work. In his early works the theme of in-betweenness is literally represented in the sites he chose to photograph. His Excursionist Views (20012005) show failed, depopulated modernist housing developments that sit precariously between evacuation and demolition, Island Flora (2005) documents the plants, weeds, and vegetation contained within isolated highway medians that, left to their own devices, have grown unruly, while the series of photographs of abandoned shopping malls, titled American Passages (2001ongoing), present the mercantile and capitalistic nightmare of empty, closed shops.
These three projects all confront the urban landscape as a problem of in-betweenness, depicting locations trapped in a state of geographic and temporal limbo, neither fully abandoned, nor actively integrated into the urban context. More recently, this engagement with the in-between has grown into a means of production, making use of such mundane procedures as air travel or sending a package, activities that usually recede into the background of an artists productive life.
In tandem, Beshty explores various issues associated with photographic representation, specifically that of transparency, and the resulting works both revisit and complicate early modernist practices. While homages to influential figures such as László Moholy-Nagy can be found in his Pictures Made by My Hand with the Assistance of Light (2006)which were based on an apocryphal story of a missing body of Moholy-Nagys workthese references appear in more subtle ways in works such as Dust (2009) (2010), or Six Color Loop (CMYRGB: Irvine, California, July 16th 2008, Fuji Crystal Archive Type C) (2009). Beshtys photograms attempt to demystify photography and mine the gaps in its historical narrative; the paper and its folds serve both as an expression of photographic materiality and as an exploration of photographys technological development.
Transparencyhow a work is produced and by whomis also vital for Beshty, and since 2005 his works reveal their productive processes both in their form and in their titles. In Travel Pictures (2006/2008) he discovered how he could work productively with issues of chance within the production of photographs. After realizing how his unexposed film was affected by passing it through the high-powered X-ray machines at the airport, Beshty began to use travel as part of his work. What at first seemed to be simply discolored damage left on his film (a side effect of the Xray machines) developed into an ongoing multifaceted body of work in which the situations surrounding the workthe production or shipment of the artwork and the travel an artist engages inwere directly manifest, pushing his investigation of transparency into new territories. These ideas extend to the sculptural works included in the exhibition, such as his Fed Ex works which are titled according to their travel from exhibition to exhibition, for example 20-inch Copper (FedEx® Large Kraft Box ©2005 FEDEX 330508), International Priority, Los AngelesTijuana trk# 865282058011 October 2830, 2008, International Priority, TijuanaLos Angeles trk# 867279774929 January 26, 2009, International Priority, Los AngelesLondon trk# 867279774881 January 1416, 2009 (2008), and the copper table tops designed for the Malmö Konsthall which oxidize as they are used by the staff and public of the institution.
The current exhibition is an extension of Beshtys approach. Using the intersections between the three overlapping grid systems present in the floor plan of the Malmö Konsthall, Beshty designed an exhibition that has both a physical and conceptual experience of in-betweenness evidenced in the sharp angles, abrupt turns, and off-kilter placements of the walls.
In each of these instances, the artwork is inextricable from the incidental circumstances of its making (be it time, travel, or light) and the conditions under which it is viewed, presenting a transitory vision of the work of art. From his early inquiries into the problem of photographic transparency, the means of production and how the work enters the world has become a chief concern. Whether it be in sculptural, photographic, or architectonic form, Beshtys work maintains a commitment to the political and material condition of aesthetics even as it uses art to re-imagine the world around us.