Copypasta, copy paste, pasta copy, pasty copy. Etymologically, the “pasta” component of the term is a playful turn on the word “paste,” which can also define a particular mixture of pigment and binder, while the “copy” component speaks to the act of reproducing semblances, an experience, or an emotional reaction. Despite its origins within the virtual space of an online message board, “copypasta” has a capacity for deconstructing and simplifying how painting operates. Similarly, the artists within Copypasta gracefully distill painting down to a set of base components—those of symbolic communication, labor and materiality.
LA-based artist Adam Beris’s paintings make use of a sculptural approach to paint application, creating a highly emotive set of glyphs, faces and a semiotic vocabulary all his own. Often organized in neat grids that contrast the gestural goopiness of Beris’s built-up profiles and symbols, the artist’s works employ a vaguely scientific approach to organization and classification not dissimilar to that of Bernd & Hilla Becher’s industrial typologies. An element of collecting pervades the works as the sides of the faces in an Adam Beris painting could closely resemble a cross section of old toys pulled from a flea market stall, yet above that of a mere consumer, Beris paints with a godlike authority in his ability to create and control the population contained within. There is also an undeniable material directness to his paintings as the artist often chooses to apply the medium from tube to surface, allowing for an improvisational freshness contained within each symbolic mark and an arresting quirkiness to each realized profile.
Set alongside these works are William Emmert’s painted sculpture facsimiles that pull from his work as an artist and art handler, serving to return the focus of the viewer back to the tools and embedded means of production that are so often hidden from view within a gallery context. Belying their humble origins of paper, hot glue and paint, Emmert is able to create radically complex objects that imitate utilitarian items used in the production of artwork and the gallery experience as a whole. From afar it appears that an exhibition installation remains in progress—a level teeters precariously perched atop a ladder, strewn about are screws preparing to hold the next painting, and wooden stretcher bars await a wrap of fresh canvas—however, upon closer inspection there is an uncanny reveal as we realize each object is an incredibly delicate approximation of the real item constructed from the same materials as the painting on paper hanging on the wall next to it. Reminiscent of Fred Wilson’s 1991 work “Guarded View,” which exhibited four mannequins donned in the uniforms of guards from New York City institutions, Emmert’s work asks for us to not only consider the materials used in the production of an art experience, but the invisibility of labor and the laborer within this context.
And finally perhaps the most traditionally “painterly” works within the exhibition are Isaac Vazquez Avila’s paper and paint collages, which use these mediums to play out tensions between dominant and nondominant cultures in an exploration of the in-between. Vazquez Avila’s works embody the “rasquache” sensibility—what Chicano scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto describes as “the perspective of the underdog”. Once a derogatory term for crudeness, “rasquache” has come to reflect more of a tactic and attitude than a style—one of not only making do, but celebrating less-than-ideal materials. Repurposing found visual material from popular, mass or dominant cultures and entwining it with personal, imaginative and experimental gestures in paint allows the work to function as a reflection on liminal cultural spaces and the questions/intersections of belonging and/or forging one’s own path.
Through a combination of simplification, deception and reorientation, the artists use the gallery space as a laboratory to create a playfully beguiling environment within which we find painting dissected