How Artists Are Resisting the Flip
From the Catalogue
Playfully using the language of mass production and consumer culture to create something utterly unique, Untitled (Vintage Bomber) is a remarkable example of Seth Price’s most celebrated series: the vacuum-formed ‘canvases’ made of sleek, monochrome plastic. An unconventional artistic material, Price affords plastic an exceptional level of sophistication, with its highly polished and undeniably alluring shiny surface adopting the shape of a vacuumed jacket. The vintage bomber jacket, a recurring motif within this series, adds an element of irony which transcends conceptual issues of mass-production, appropriation and, more generally, our contemporary understanding of today’s art world. Indeed, the bomber jacket has a history of appropriation of its own. First created in World War I to keep fighter pilots warm, the bomber jacket has since been appropriated by myriad social cliques that range from punks and bikers in the 1970s to hip-hop rappers such as Kanye West in the 2000s. Price has said, "It’s a perennial, it never goes out of style, every designer makes one. At this point the elasticity of the thing is so great that anything can be called a bomber. That history is just an essence you, like, spray on."
At its core, Untitled (Vintage Bomber) is a piece of monochromatic plastic under which the contours of a vintage bomber jacket have been captured in microscopic details; each fold, wrinkle and seam is lifelessly plastered through the surface. Reminiscent of relief sculpture, Untitled (Vintage Bomber) is a piece intended to remain attached to a wall, as a painting. And yet, through the use of plastic, the sculpture is fully detached from any established artistic medium. Plastic, a pervasive material in the contemporary world, is given a new and highly-prominent place within the fine arts.
Price makes use of a technique developed in the 1950s during the boom of industrial plastic-use, whereby heated sheets of plastic were vacuum formed to take on the shape and volume of various molds. In the present work, Price has chosen the bomber jacket as his mold around which the opaque plastic sheet has cooled to form a hard shell. The year of the work’s production, 2008, is emblazoned in big block letters, further stressing the mechanical nature of the work’s process and its consequential reproducibility. Albeit a practice typically employed for the packaging of mass-produced consumer goods, Price then removes the jacket from the mold, resulting in a ghost-impression of the subject matter. Creating a dichotomy of conceptual value against physical matter, Chris Wiley proposes “the vacuum-formed pieces [become] like charged voids – bristling with a suggestion of meaning, but ultimately meaningless. They are all packaging, no product” (Chris Wiley, ‘Short Circuit’, Seth Price: 2000 Words, Athens 2014, p. 11). A stimulating conceptual weight is thus extracted from Price’s vacuum-formed relief sculpture.
Untitled (Vintage Bomber) further alludes to broader themes explored by Price in his oeuvre. Discussing a paradigm shift between plastic and technology, "[Price] makes broad cultural links between the current perception of the infinite potential of video and the Internet – its elastic materiality – and the development of plastic in Europe and North America in the 1950s. The apparently boundless adaptability of plastic in the post-war era represented an optimistic expression of re-creation, heralding a new era of consumer choice… Making the link with contemporary digital anxiety, he argues that the use of digital tools gives a plasticity to content with recorded material being constantly reused and manipulated” (Polly Staple, ‘The Producer’, Frieze, October 2008, p. 246).
—Courtesy of Sotheby's
Karen Marta, Ed., 2000 Words: Seth Price, Athens 2014, p. 75, illustrated in color
Petzel Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Seth Price’s conceptual, multi-disciplinary practice comprises video, film, sculpture, installation, collage, performance, and text that investigate how art and media are produced and disseminated. Signature works include the “Vintage Bombers” series (2005-), sheets of vacuum-formed polystyrene bearing a trace of a bomber jacket, and the ongoing video projection Redistribution (2008-), a historical, cultural, and personal narrative of his work and processes. In addition to the traditional gallery, Price has used open-source Internet downloads and small-scale publishing to circulate his work.
American, b. 1973, East Jerusalem, based in New York, New York