Lisson Gallery

'Davida Fernández-Barkan on Tony Bechara' – Artforum

3 April 2024

Tony Bechara’s first solo exhibition with Lisson Gallery followed a curious format. The far end of the 508 West Twenty-Fourth Street space was reserved for a single canvas: 125 Colors, 1979. Like the eight other works on view, it featured a grid of differently hued squares, each one a quarter inch in length and width. On one adjacent wall were three paintings larger than the central composition; on the other were five smaller ones. The palette of the pieces on the two flanking walls, each made in 2023 and variously titled Random 28 (Blue version), Random 28 (More Yellow version), Random 28 (Red version), and so on, was more restricted than that of the central work, as they offered up only the titular number of hues, with the namesake shade dominating each canvas.

Bechara realizes his colored grids through a process he characterizes as “painting blind”: Using vertical and horizontal strips of quarter-inch tape to divide his canvases into masked and unmasked squares, he first paints the uncovered spaces. The artist then hides these sections to work on the rest of the composition. Employing a predetermined method that bars him from viewing the whole canvas while he paints, Bechara limits his own agency in the creation of the optical effects that interest him. It is no accident that he began to develop this approach—which he says produces “pixels”—during the 1970s, when computer technology began its steady march into everyday life. In 1974, tech firm Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) conceived the Altair 8800, the world’s first commercially viable personal computer. Three years later, consumers could choose similar machines for the home released by Apple, Commodore, and Radio Shack—aka, the “1977 Trinity.” Of course, the digital operating systems that promised to perform calculations at a previously unimaginable rate and scale became a threat to human labor, eliminating vast swaths of the workforce.

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'Davida Fernández-Barkan on Tony Bechara' – Artforum
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