Matthew Deleget is best known for paintings that self-consciously sample, pay homage to, and subvert the history of twentieth-century abstract and Minimalist painting. In Zero Sum, his 2014 Biennial installation, he takes his engagement with this history to its logical conclusion by not creating a painting at all. Instead, he displays forty-two art books from his personal library, the majority of which focus on abstraction and Minimalism in American painting. These include monographs of such artists as Alfred Jensen (1903–1981), Joseph Marioni (b. 1943), and fellow Biennial artist David Diao (b. 1943); surveys of American abstract art, including some published by the Whitney; and other books that contain sections about contemporary artists exploring Minimalist abstraction, such as Robert Swain (tk–tk), Marcia Hafif (b. 1929), and Merrill Wagner (b. 1935). An admirer of these artists, Deleget nonetheless acknowledges that the work of abstract painters (including, presumably, his own) can be referred to in a stylistic shorthand that in turn can be packaged, branded, and remixed like a commodity in the marketplace.
Each of the volumes in Zero Sum had been discarded or was purchased from a bookstore’s bargain bin, including the Whitney’s, highlighting the shifting value and desirability of artists in the marketplace.
Matthew Deleget’s work is on view in the Museum’s Robert J. Hurst Family Gallery (Lower Gallery).
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