Scott Ingram works under pre-existing conditions

Ingram learns from the past in Solomon Projects’ ...Through Line...

Scott Ingram’s Solomon Projects exhibition, ...Through Line..., spans nine years of his work, which is hung, salon style, from floor to ceiling on the gallery walls. The geometric precision and balance with which the work is arranged influences the way we perceive and understand it in two important ways. First, the installation as a whole recalls a modernist geometric painting: The gallery walls become a canvas and the arrangement of the framed drawings resembles an abstract composition that calls to mind 20th-century artists such as Piet Mondrian or Theo van Doesburg. Second, Ingram worked for years as a museum installer. His knowledge of how the placement and framing of artwork affect the viewer is evident in the exhibition’s setup. ...Through Line... is not only a collection of individual works but also a self-consciously designed environment.

Ingram often appropriates images from architectural postcards and color plates from books or catalogs on Ellsworth Kelly and modernist architecture. In 2000, Ingram began redrawing drawings Kelly made in Paris in the mid ’50s. On one level, this strategy resembles that of other appropriationist artists such as Sherrie Levine. In 1980, Levine photographed an entire exhibition catalog of Walker Evans’ photographs and showed the reproduced works as her own. (More recently, Levine has painted watercolors based on reproductions of Fernand Léger’s paintings.) But whereas Levine’s controversial work challenges notions of originality and ownership in art – Evans’ estate claimed copyright infringement and confiscated her works to prevent their sale – Ingram’s use of a similar technique makes no social statement. Instead, Ingram is communicating his physical engagement with existing images. The act of reproducing the works by hand allows him to assimilate the original artist’s vision into his own.

Ingram’s method of appropriation takes possession of artworks in a personal sense rather than a legal one. For “Write Your Name On It,” an altered architectural postcard measuring 4-by-6 inches, a collage of light teal-colored squares covers the building’s image, creating a wholly new work. The approach is reminiscent of John Baldessari, who, since the 1980s, has used geometric shapes in high-keyed colors to block out parts of his photographs, prints or paintings. While deadpan irony characterizes Baldessari’s and Levine’s works, Ingram’s art is about understanding – specifically his desire to understand the way in which modernists drew and thought. He commands their spirit by appropriating their formal language and using it for his own purposes. Although his sources are dated, his conception of art as one artist’s personal dialogue with the past is entirely contemporary.