March 15 - April 19 2014
Saturday March 15
We’ve long been aware that there are signs and there are “signs” and that the distinction between the two is largely an ideological effect. Whether the signifying operation is transparent, indeterminate, or self-referential, we no longer express anguish over the arbitrariness of meaning – or rather, such anguish now seems embarrassingly naïve. Paul Forney’s installation and works on paper exploit this condition by arranging a very limited number of words, symbols, objects, and images into the minimum number of permutations necessary to suggest a logic or underlying principle structuring the relations between these various elements. At the same time, however, there is nothing rigorous about this logic. No commitment to the system here – merely a making do with a set of skills that, taken together, might define artistic production in its most minimal sense as a negotiation between conceptual, technical, and affective registers. And yet, in Forney’s work, these registers settle into a kind of stalemate and cancel each other out.
The opacity, indeterminacy, and reflexivity of signs are all evoked in the work. The play between the printed drop shadow of graphic text and frame and the real shadow cast by the stretched paper. The prevarication between print, painting, and drawing. The gestural smudges or tears that obscure text or symbol. The undecidability between pedestal, readymade installation element, and ground for carved symbol in the apple boxes. And, most obviously, the potential for semantic play in the chain, “Credit City Blonde.” However, this condition of signs as “signs” is taken for granted rather than as revelation, frustrating the promise that contemplative visual engagement or critical rigor will offer any keys to the work. The usual entry points and signposts are no longer there. Even the ability to determine whether this is slapdash or highly polished is curiously thwarted. Are these rudimentary plans or obsolete remains? The inability of any one sign, or particular combination of signs, to assert dominance prevents the viewer from assuming a position of sovereignty in the assignation of meaning yet – and here’s the trick – neither does the work assert the presence of some secret code, known only to the artist. Instead, Forney’s signs have that same queer equivalence Marx noted of commodities, yet devoid of any “theological niceties.”
- Sami Siegelbaum, 2014