Allan McCollum: “Plaster Surrogates” & “Surrogate Paintings”

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Episode #120: Filmed in his Brooklyn studio, Allan McCollum discusses his Surrogate Paintings (begun in 1978) and Plaster Surrogates (begun in 1982). Wanting to “construct an emblem” for what an artist does and demystify what it means to be an artist, McCollum’s symbolic works reveal the social game of looking at, selling, and making art through theatrical installations of mass-produced objects. McCollum’s Surrogates are on view in two exhibitions in New York City: the exhibition The Space Between Reference and Regret at Friedrich Petzel Gallery (through October 23rd), and the exhibition Seriality at Armand Bartos Fine Art (September 22nd through October 22nd).

Applying strategies of mass production to hand-made objects, Allan McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time. Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, comprised of subtly different, distinct things. Engaging assistants, scientists, and local craftspeople in his process, McCollum embraces a collaborative and democratic form of creativity.

Allan McCollum is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Systems of the Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS. Watch full episodes online via PBS Video or download to own via iTunes (link opens application).

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Wesley Miller & Susan Sollins. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Sound: Tom Bergin. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Joaquin Perez. Artwork Courtesy: Allan McCollum & Friedrich Petzel Gallery. Special Thanks: Celina Paiz, Marcie Paper & Adele Röder.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Contributor
Wesley Miller is the associate curator at ART21. Miller co-curates the television series Art in the Twenty-First Century. He is also co-creator of the series New York Close Up.
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