Appropriation


("Crime" by Gardar Eide Einarsson, seen with "Punishment," below)


Mark Melnick sent me this image of artist Gardar Eide Einarsson's new gallery show at Team Gallery, which includes "his" new (2010) paintings "Crime" and "Punishment." They are, to put it succinctly, enlargements of the cover I made for the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of "Crime and Punishment" for Vintage Books.

The artist's statement begins as follows: "Reproduction as theft, and authorship as failed claim are the central conceits in this exhibition by Gardar Eide Einarsson. His concurrent fascinations with criminality and appropriation come together in an installation that appears to mark the jettisoning of his overt approach to political subject matter in favor of a formalist’s engagement with the legacy of modernism. Using the history of abstraction and pop as a readymade, Einarsson here distills a poetics of disruption, shifting between drippy hard edge abstraction, graphic renderings from mainstream sources, and the occasional deployment of the ben-day dot. In preparation for this exhibition, Einarsson selected a number of images from the public domain that were of cursory interest to him: a book cover, the design on a napkin, a chain link fence, a section of the confederate flag..." it goes on. (And on).

The fun part is, my design is not, in fact, IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN! Hilarious!

Randomhouse owns the rights to any reproduction "in book form," and I own the rights to every other reproduction.

I have to say, the illegality of the situation, in some very real way, makes Mr. Einarsson's idea of "reproduction as theft" less toothless and bloviating as a rallying cry.

I don't feel particularly upset, though the word "cursory" in the statement above reveals something very distasteful about the artist's and/or gallery's attitude. Was it a "cursory" interest that led Einarson to reproduce this cover of mine? It seems more likely that he actually, dare i say, liked the design? Otherwise he could have stolen from much less interesting sources.

For what it is worth, I feel like we all TAKE OURSELVES WAY TOO SERIOUSLY as designers. And don't get me started on artists. I would actually enjoy seeing this show.

It's not the first time this design (from, garsh, i guess I did it in 2000-2001) has been re-purposed, and I genuinely hope it's not the last.

In any case maybe I'll venture down to the show and see how my own homage to suprematism looks, malevich-like, actually painted.

....