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Poodle Mix: Exhibition of works by Meg Cranston on view at Michael Janssen Berlin
Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix", 2014, Acrylic and paper on canvas, 177,8 x 139,7 cm / 70 x 55 in. Courtesy Michael Janssen Berlin-Singapore.

BERLIN.- Michael Janssen Berlin is presenting the exhibition Poodle Mix with new paintings by conceptual artist Meg Cranston.

The paintings on view have very common subjects in painting - bottles and dogs. The dogs featured in the paintings come from a video work Cranston did in 2008 called All the Dogs in the Pound for which she photographed all the dogs in Los Angeles animal shelters for the period of a month. It included a total of 750 dogs who needed new homes. "After living with humans and getting their photographs taken often dogs seem to understand how to pose for maximum impact", says Cranston. People mostly adopt dogs by looking at photos on the web, so for shelter dogs a good photo is a matter of life or death. The paintings are an extension of that work and reflect her interest in weaving together formal experimentation with recognizable cultural references, a strategy that she shares with many other artists from Los Angeles such as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha among others.

The paintings all began as collages. Painters have often used collage as a starting point for painting; de Kooning for example used collage to develop composition. Some of the paintings feature several painting styles in one work, which also represents a form of collage. Most of the paintings are 180 x 140 cm (70 x 55 in.); a size obtained by blowing up the collages 500%. Pop artists liked to satirize or ridicule objects by enlarging them. “I like the number. It seems so huge. Things really change when you blow them up“; says Cranston.

In her practice Meg Cranston investigates the intersections between individual and shared experience and how imagery and objects acquire meaning in our culture. By appropriating from diverse aesthetics such as color theory, design, fashion, and supermarket advertising, Cranston makes energetic collages, paintings, installations and sculptures by pairing found imagery with monochromatic abstract forms. While often taking personal attributes or historical events as a starting point, Cranston’s work is equally concerned with the formal language of art and the role the artist plays in helping us see the world in new ways. Some of her most recent works borrow their colors from color forecasts for fashion and home design.

Cranston has recently collaborated with John Baldessari in two series of text paintings entitled Keep it Simple. Keep it Fresh. and Real Painting (for Aunt Cora) on view at Michael Janssen in Singapore (2013) and in Berlin (2014) respectively. Collaboration itself was a way for the two artists to achieve new solutions. For both exhibitions they allowed the planes of text and color to work simultaneously in order to achieve a new and unanticipated resonance and profundity. The idea behind it was to use old texts by Baldessari and update them by blending them within the context of color trends.

In her installation, Emerald City (2013) - that received the 2013 Artadia NADA New York Award - Cranston painted two walls of the gallery emerald green. A painting of Kate Middleton wearing an emerald pleated gown in November 2011 was installed on one of the painted walls. It seemd as if Cranston had taken the color emerald green as a readymade. While the market economy used to rely on circulating goods through advertising, it is now more preoccupied with choreographing moods, gestures, and, inevitably, color. In December 2012, the Pantone Corporation held its semiannual secretive two-day conference, and announced emerald green as the color of 2013. Yet, Middleton, pictured in Cranston’s portrait, seems to have been the one to set the tone a year before Pantone determined the latest chromatic zeitgeist. As such, the readymade expanded from the thing itself to the context within which a product is circulated and interpreted— more specifically, from a royal figurehead to a globalized culture.

In Emerald City, Cranston questions what creative autonomy entails when a choice like an artist’s palette or the color one wears is not as autonomous as it seems. As Cranston mentions in an interview, she is not necessarily concerned with a critique of corporate-curated environment. Rather, it is the symbiotic relationship between individual identity and branding that is her subject matter.

Meg Cranston: *1960 in Baldwin, NY. Lives and works in Venice, CA. Selected exhibitions: 2014: Michael Janssen, Berlin. 2012: Made in L.A. (group). 2011: Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles (group). 2010: Gallery Brandstrup Oslo, Norway (group). 2009: Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany (solo). 2008: Getty Museum of Art, Los Angeles (group); Kuenstlerverein Malkasten, Duesseldorf, Germany (group). 2007: Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand (solo).

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