Born in Hammond, Indiana, Wade Guyton received a BFA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1995 and an MFA from Hunter College, New York, in 1998. Over the past decade, he has produced a body of work that explores our changing relationships to images and artworks through the use of common digital technologies, such as the desktop computer, scanner, and inkjet printer. His purposeful misuse of these tools to make paintings and drawings results in beautiful accidents that relate to daily lives now punctuated by misprinted photos and blurred images on our phone and computer screens.
In an early and defining drawing series from 2003, Guyton fed pages from design and art history books through an Epson inkjet printer, overlaying simple shapes or letters onto the surface of the original images. In 2005, he expanded upon this group of works by running pre-primed linen canvas through a larger model of Epson printer, producing “paintings” based on the letter X, flame forms, and, later, all-black monochromes created by printing a simple black rectangle. In order to print on the entire surface of his canvases, Guyton folds them down the middle and runs them through the printer twice (or multiple times)—printing on each side. As a result, the imagery of his canvases is marked by breaks in continuity as well as printer jams and other “errors” that he consciously manipulates. For example, in a nod to the typical problems that arise with home printers, Guyton tugs at the canvas as it comes out of the printer to create smears, streaks, and distortions. His interventions take place at the level of digital code as well, as he alters or mis-formats the computer file involved in the printing process to create painterly effects during printing.
Guyton’s interest in working with automated printers to produce paintings stems, in part, from a desire to engage with landmarks of modernist painting. The vertical breaks in his imagery that result from folding his canvases for example, are evocative of the “zip” line used by Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman. Likewise, Guyton’s process recalls Frank Stella’s black stripe paintings, in which all marks on the painting were regulated by a predetermined uniform width between lines. Guyton’s approach is also inspired by the experience of viewing the history of painting through printed books and magazines. By working with digital printing technologies, he utilizes the media through which he has encountered the history of art to create an inventive new incarnation of painting. Most recently, Guyton has amplified the scale of his work, producing canvases that are composed of multiple panels and stretch up to fifty feet wide. In addition to working independently, he also collaborates with artist Kelley Walker under the moniker Guyton/Walker.
This video features footage of the making and installation of the GuytonWalker project, the first of three commissioned works as part of Whitney On Site: New Commissions Downtown. These projects will be on view throughout the summer and into October and respond to the site’s dynamic urban context and herald plans to bring a downtown Whitney to the neighborhood