Cory Arcangel

Century 21

Press release

Cory Arcangel hacks into the systems and software that define our networked lives, introducing glitches and misfires that reveal the perils of technological dependence. His debut solo exhibition at Greene Naftali will intensify themes he has honed over two decades, using the structures and social mores of digital platforms as his primary artistic material. Featuring both real-time and recorded media interventions, works on paper, and riffs on painting, the exhibition centers on his most ambitious work to date: a live feed of a custom computer navigating the videogame Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, using machine learning—intended to streamline performance—toward more ambivalent ends. A player’s goal in the game is to increase their fame and reputation to become an A-list celebrity, and Arcangel’s operating system fumbles its way through this ersatz version of suburban Los Angeles. The work’s layered visuals comprise the flattened graphics of the role-playing game itself, an array of colored boxes the algorithm uses to identify what it encounters, and scrolling lines of code that correspond to the program’s automated progress, with in-game sounds composed by musician Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never). /roʊˈdeɪoʊ/ Let’s Play: HOLLYWOOD recalls the modified game cartridges that marked Arcangel’s early career, but the use of artificial intelligence expands the scope of those prior interventions—here the game has been repurposed in ways that even the artist does not control, and the outcome of play cannot be known in advance.

Installation view, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

Installation view, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

elleusa, equinor, equinox, etrade_financial, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

lets be clear now, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

Alongside these moving image works are the newest examples of Arcangel’s Flatware series: wall-mounted reliefs made by transferring images of scanned textiles onto Ikea tabletops. Here the fabrics all come from sweatpants—both iconic brands like Adidas and no-name dollar-store fare—in works that reference the global ubiquity of athleisure and big-box stores. That the resulting works are so visually enticing adds another dimension to Arcangel’s critique, channeling the legacy of post-painterly abstraction without ever wielding a brush. “Where can painting go after so many hundreds of years?” he has asked. “I think the best artists acknowledge the joke”. That art historical sensibility also turns comedic in a series of typographic works, in which slogans are printed (using a Laserjet in his home office) on airsick bags lifted from commercial flights. The banal phrases—“now let’s be clear,” “let me explain”—are common in the Twitter vernacular, often used as inoffensive lead-ins to some incendiary statement. Free of context, the words take on a more beguiling, poetic quality, akin to the language-based works of Bruce Nauman or Ed Ruscha that hint at meaning but never prescribe it.

Installation view, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

Cory Arcangel
Century 21

Greene Naftali, NY
05 March – 17 April, 2021