Historically, modern art has prized originality and authenticity. But alongside this tradition runs another set of practices: replication and tactics of illusion. The Romans made copies of Greek sculptures; Northern Europeans in the seventeenth century practiced an illusionistic approach to still life painting called quodlibet, or “what you will”; American pop art reproduced images of mass-produced, consumer goods.
Alastair John Gordon’s work is indebted to these traditions and to mass media print culture. The London-based artist’s new body of work draws on the postcard collection of Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, philanthropists and art collectors in L.A. Their collection includes mementos from their travels, scenes of architectural interest, and reproductions of works of art—over 18,500 postcards in all.
His trompe l’oeil renderings of postcards, sketches, and residual papers raise questions about authenticity and representation. The artist sees the work as a form of hyperreality, a term coined by Umberto Eco in 1975. This is the realm of the “authentic copy,” where the illusion is total and the skill of the hoax is part of its charm.
At a time when the American public is spooked by fake news and alternative facts, this body of work invites the viewer to consider the roots and repercussions of fakery.
I spoke with Gordon by phone and over email to discuss his interest in both the gallery and the gift shop. [Read more…]