Like the Spice is pleased to present Off the Clock, a group exhibition of works by artists who work or have worked as studio assistants to other artists, featuring works by Rachel Beach who has assisted Roxy Paine, Jason Bryant who assists Kehinde Wiley, Allison Edge who has assisted McDermott & McGough and Jeff Koons, Charlie Ledbetter who also has assisted Jeff Koons, Jenny Morgan and David Mramor who assist Marilyn Minter and Reuben Negrón who assists Papo Colo. The seven artists in this show have each spent a considerable amount of time working in another artist's studio. Here we present their personal artwork, giving viewers an introduction to the next generation of artists who may one day have assistants of their own as well as a chance to consider the studio assistant's place in the art world more generally.
Artists have used assistants at least since the early days of the apprentice system in the middle ages. Since minimalism and Warhol (not to mention the boom in contemporary art prices) it has become increasingly acceptable for artists to have works made for them. Today, a studio assistant's role can vary from office tasks and documenting work to stretching and preparing canvasses to creating art practically from scratch. Assistants' roles in artistic production are still almost always under the radar, as having work made to order flies in the face of long held (some would say anachronistic) romantic ideals. We like to believe that artworks are a physical expression of the artist's soul; that the artist toiled to get it just right. Artists do toil but those who can afford studio assistants have the luxury of delegating a little.
Artists using assistants can expand their repertoire to include media they are not experienced in using, they can also produce more work, and faster. Studio assistants whose main focus is physically making the work are very skilled, often more expert at their particular techniques than their bosses.
In addition to works by each of the artists, each of the artist's employers has also been asked to provide a letter detailing their assistant's role in the studio to be presented alongside the work. Some are forthright, others more protective, others did not respond. Each response, or lack thereof, is telling, as some artists are more open about this system than others. Takashi Murakami, whose assistant is included in this show, is known for crediting the work of his assistants, with comprehensive lists of each contributor accompanying each piece. He even represents several of his assistants' work as an agent. Other artists are less open, often requiring new hires to sign strict confidentiality agreements and not publicly acknowledging using assistants at all.
Rachel Beach makes wooden sculptures with a tromp l'oeil kick, playing three-dimensional reality against two-dimensional illusion. Jason Bryant's cropped, photorealistic paintings of models and celebrities bring mystery and humanity back to the age of overexposure. Allison Edge investigates tween psychology, innocence, and nostalgia in her highly detailed oils. Charlie Ledbetter combines images inspired by multiple texts in compositions that playfully evoke grand literary themes. Jenny Morgan's portraits conflate the physicality of paint and person, psychology and physiology. Her collaborative works with David Mramor, investigate the tension and fluidity of portrait and landscape, abstraction and representation. In his sensuously painted watercolors, Reuben Negrón explores the private lives of people in love and lust, exposing and elevating them at once.