For his first solo show at Reena Spaulings, Ken Okiishi presents a suite of abstract oil compositions painted on vertically hung flatscreen monitors. Playing on each set is a different mix of vintage VHS recordings—snippets of news, reality shows, ads, etc. Reversing the figure-ground relationship, the onscreen action serves as backdrop for marks made in response to it, in a style that might be called slacker tachism. In one piece, daubs of mint green and swirls of red are applied on top of a TV Guide special about Nicole Kidman; in another, Okiishi works over the solid blue screen of a VCR on standby with slashes of darker blue.
One antecedent may be Gretchen Bender’s works from the 1980s, in which televisions tuned to various channels were overlaid with phrases such as homeless and people with aids. (Like Okiishi, Bender is in this year’s Whitney Biennial.) Okiishi’s efforts are less political and more beautiful, but they go beyond formalism. The artist has proved himself adept at repurposing found content to humorously comment on how information flows in our globalized world—by, for instance, replacing German-dubbed dialogue for Woody Allen’s Manhattan with a Google translation into English. Here, he’s combined nondescript abstraction with outdated information to come up with works that are considerably more than the sum of their parts.—Anne Doran