Over and Over
Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986 – 2011
Gagosian Gallery kicks of its 2012 exhibition schedule with a bang, showcasing all of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings in a survey that spans the globe – from New York to London to Hong Kong – via each and every Gagosian outpost.
Eschewing the more “acceptable” or “respectable” approach of the standard museum retrospective directed by an A-list curator, this endeavor has been initiated by his A-list commercial gallery, Gagosian. As such, purists will scoff that this is nothing more than a crass PR stunt. And that seems to be exactly what’s going on here, partially. If you can bear to look below the surface, to actually consider the work, there’s so much to like.
The subject matter revels in pure aesthetics. It’s a simple gesture executed with strict guidelines and a minimum of parts then repeated ad infinitum. It’s that simple and that’s something that modernists everywhere should be absolutely giddy about. As Frank Stella famously said, “what you see is what you see”.
What’s compelling is the sheer number of variations achieved via the simple gesture of the “spot”. Variations in color, size, scale, technique, composition play out in all manner of combinations all with varying degrees of success. Some are good, some are bad, lots are indifferent. And that’s a-okay. What’s at work here is the idea that a simple shape can have huge potential when it’s taken to its absolute extreme. The journey is the destination, as some say. But don’t deny there are many marvelous stop-overs along the way.
Gagosian does a good job of exhaustively documenting the vast body of work on view at gagosian.com, at least in regard to the New York shows. And this over-saturation totally plays into the over-blown, over-indulgent framework of the show.
Especially admirable is the “Complete Spot Challenge” which grants you an editioned Hirst print as reward for trekking the globe and clocking in at each and every outpost. An inspired Willy-Wonka-Golden-Ticket-esque gesture, naturally.
But if you haven’t the deep pockets to travel the globe or buy an original, don’t sweat it. The gift shop is chock full of anything and everything – t-shirts, mugs, clocks etc. – to keep the pop culture addict sated. It’s another gesture that’s fully complicit with the over-saturating, over-stimulating, overdosing agenda at work.
It’s best to just sit back and enjoy the ride.