Carter Mull — Untitled (for Print) 2010–11
Since the 1960s, artists have had to contend with the fact that contemporary artworks are most frequently encountered in the pages of art magazines, as reproductions. This apparent inversion between “primary” and “secondary” experience led Conceptual artists and others to make works that would live in the spaces of reproduction and publication, in magazines, catalogs, and printed ephemera. Rather than simply displacing conventional production to new venues, these projects explored the material and conceptual space of print media. In 1968, Vito Acconci’s sprawling “ON (a magazine version of a section of a long prose)” in 0 to 9, jumped from page to page amidst other contributors’ texts, perhaps launching an entire genre of “writing through” projects. A year later, in “The Space Between Pages 29 & 30” (0 to 9, no. 6), Robert Barry asked readers to contemplate the thickness of a page and a more conceptual space that exists only in the mind.*
The magazine, of course, was never a stable object, but the product of reproductive technologies and social relations that changed constantly throughout the twentieth century. What does it mean to make a project for magazine pages now, as that printed space becomes increasingly endangered?
Los Angeles-based artist Carter Mull frequently works with imagery drawn from archaic, or nearly archaic, print forms–such as his large-scale photographs made using the front cover spread of the Los Angeles Times. In its ephemerality, heterogeneity, and chance juxtapositions, the printed newspaper was a template of the fragmentation of information in modernity, an inked page where sumptuous ads appear next to accounts of poverty, and across from random stories, all to be tossed tomorrow.
For Untitled (for Print), in X-TRA, Mull set out to make a piece that would work like an installation within the pages of the magazine, implicitly reflecting on its format, materiality, and temporality. A cornerstone of Mull’s practice has been setting up relays between photographic images and other types of spaces–filling a gallery with images, plastering a ceiling with photographs, or covering the floor with hundreds of printed mylar sheets–in effect to turn photography into a sculptural medium.
Mull’s four-page spread was made using commonly available tools of the trade (digital camera, scanner, Photoshop), drawing images from Diderot’s Encyclopedie documenting eighteenth-century printing and typesetting technologies (an archive that Mull also used in a recent show). Mull states: “I wanted to deal with time, and the routing of time within a magazine.” He adds that the burning card, which is the same dimensions as an X-TRA subscription card, “is a kind of chronometer within the publication.” Mull’s project animates superimposed scenes from print’s history, and implies their destruction.
* The influential magazine 0 to 9 was co-edited by Acconci and poet Bernadette Mayer; six issues appeared between 1967 and 1969.
Liz Kotz is a Los Angeles-based art critic; she teaches modern and contemporary art history at the University of California, Riverside.
Carter Mull is an artist living in Los Angeles. Born in Atlanta in 1977, he received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 2006. His work has been exhibited widely, most recently at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Presentation House, Vancouver; Domaine departemental de Chamarande, Paris; Marc Foxx, Los Angeles; and Gagosian Gallery, New York. Mull’s work is in the permanent collections of the Orange County Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Hammer Museum, Getty Research Institute, and the Walker Art Center. His work has been discussed in publications and periodicals, including Artforum, Art on Paper, Art in America, Los Angeles Times and New Yorker. In 2010, Mull curated Ma at Taxter and Spengemann in New York and collaboratively edited the community newspapers Matisse and Marcel.