Charles Gaines’s multi-panel installation activates ICA Miami’s central stairwell, and explores the artist’s approach to seriality through a unique vertical composition.
The artist’s practice places him within the legacy of Conceptualism, evidenced by works such as his gridded, serial images of trees painted on plexiglass that successively plot the shape of trees on one another. Since the 1970s, he has used self-determined rules in order to translate photographic information; he has said: “I use systems in order to provoke the issues around representation.” Here, photographs of trees are translated in various forms of colorful abstraction.
Gaines’s strict method of presenting his works is notably inspired by early Conceptual practices, but he doesn’t utilize the formal rules or use of language and pictures in the same way that artists such as Joseph Kosuth would. What he intends to lay bare is the arbitrariness and dependence on context of all processes of significance. In simpler terms, in the artist’s view, content, meaning, and emotions do not develop naturally, nor are they universal.
Gaines (b. 1944, Charleston, South Carolina) has been the subject of mid-career retrospectives at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2015); Pomona College Museum of Art (2012); and the Pitzer College Art Gallery, Claremont, California (2012). He has exhibited work in recent major group exhibitions at such venues as the Venice Biennale (2015, 2007) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012). Gaines has published several books on contemporary art, including The New Cosmopolitanism (California State University, Fullerton, 2008) and Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism (University of California, Irvine, 1993).