Dashiell Manley (U.S.A., b. 1983), The New York Times, Monday October 6 2014, national edition Southern California (front page), 2014. Watercolor pencil on canvas. Courtesy of Private Collection, San Francisco. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery.
Great contemporary art often builds on questions that have engaged artists for centuries. As a university art museum with an encyclopedic collection, the Cantor Arts Center is dedicated to situating contemporary art in relation to the past, examining how art historical trajectories continue into the present day. In conjunction with New to the Cantor, an exhibition series that reveals continuities between contemporary and historical art, New to the Cantor: Dashiell Manley is the museum’s first spotlight presentation focused on an emerging artist. The exhibition, currently on view, runs through April 24, 2017.
“With this new series focusing on the work of emerging artists, we are able to deepen our investigation into the place of contemporary art in an historic teaching museum,” said Alison Gass, Chief Curator and Associate Director for Exhibitions and Collections. “These artists live and work in the same moment we do and can provide insights into the state of the world around us in unique ways that can resonate with our many audiences.”
Although Dashiell Manley’s practice takes a particularly contemporary slant, the artist draws on the tradition of using the newspaper as a source of inspiration. Artists have investigated, manipulated and co-opted the newspaper for more than a century. In her exhibition texts, Curator Jennifer Carty references Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s “Manifesto of Futurism,” splayed on the front page of Le Figaro in 1909; clippings from Le Journal featured in early cubist collages by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque; and Robert Rauschenberg’s assemblages of the 1950s and ’60s. Manley draws on and extends such explorations in this exhibition, continuing a long tradition of using the newspaper as a form through which to examine language, memory, politics and the conventional materials of art making.
New to the Cantor: Dashiell Manley features selected paintings from three bodies of work. Using the newspaper as a starting point with the series The New York Times Paintings, the artist uses watercolor pencil to meticulously transcribe the front pages of The New York Times across eight-foot canvases, deftly translating recent events into large-scale, visually stunning art objects that slip enticingly between text and abstract painting. By applying a silver wash over the surface of each work, Manley further obscures the legibility of the text. The resulting compositions contain rich layering of letters and colors, with topical terms such as “Ebola” and references to the militants now known as ISIS emerging on the surface.
Manley’s second series in this exhibition, Various sources, moves away from language and turns toward the pictorial mode of comics. Based on appropriated political cartoons from The New Yorker and Charlie Hebdo, these works hold even more potency following the attacks on the latter, Paris-based magazine in January 2015. Distressing events such as these prompted Manley’s reexamination of the project and influenced him to move steadfastly into a purely abstract realm.
The final sequence of work on display, Elegy for whatever, is a stark departure from the previous two series. Using oil paints and a palette knife, Manley builds up the paintings’ surfaces using small, quick strokes, rendering abstract paintings that operate in an emotional vein. Although these works seem completely devoid of subject matter, certain titles suggest that the artist has never completely removed himself from the language of art history. For example, Elegy for whatever (a haystack lit from the back) alludes to the French painter Claude Monet’s celebrated series Haystacks (1890–91).
“Collectively, the works assembled here complete a conversation,” said Jennifer Carty. “From text to image to the eradication of subject, these paintings speak to the changing nature of political consumption in the digital age, while also engaging with formal questions that have occupied artists for generations.”
Dashiell Manley (b. 1983, Fontana, California) holds a B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. His work has been presented in the exhibitions Made in L.A. 2012, organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and, most recently, Performing the Grid at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles. A forthcoming solo exhibition will be presented at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York. He has also exhibited internationally, showing in cities ranging from São Paulo, Sydney, Turin and Vienna to Austin, Texas. His work is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum, and in 2016 the Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco published a catalogue featuring The New York Times Paintings series. Manley lives and works in Los Angeles.