Molly Springfield by Lauren O'Neill-Butler
For her first solo show in New York, Molly Springfield took a page from the history of Conceptual art ... literally. The ten graphite drawings presented meticulously depict photocopies from three major books on the language- and idea-based art of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The drawings were delicately pinned to the wall of one gallery, and from a distance they do indeed resemble poor-quality, toner-heavy Xeroxes. Springfield's work is not primarily an attempt at trompe l'oeil, however, but rather aims to mine issues of representation and appropriation. Her life-size reproductions highlight certain artists and authors while meditating on the aesthetic dimension of Conceptual art.
The title of the show, "The world is full of objects"--a reference to Douglas Huebler's ironic 1969 statement "The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more," which Springfield rendered from Ursula Meyer's Conceptual Art, 1972--belies her interest in making drawings. Perhaps a more appropriate title might have been a borrowing from Lawrence Weiner's poetic text work that examines the links between producing conceptual objects and words, A BIT OF MATTER AND A LITTLE BIT MORE, 1976. The exhibition included reproductions of the back and front covers of a library copy of Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson's Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, 1999; the contents page from Lucy Lippard's Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, 1973; and the illustration credits page from the former. The series looked less like individual works and more like an installation of a disassembled artist's book.
Anyone familiar with the tomes that Springfield uses (both totemic and beloved in their way) might identify with her impulse to duplicate the pages. These books offer examples of seminal Conceptual works, like Lee Lozano's General Strike Piece, 1969; the presence of Springfield's hand throughout General Strike Piece, 2007, precariously and painstakingly tracing Lozano's handwriting, does little, however, to evoke Lozano's importance. (In penning this text, Lozano formalized her gradual withdrawal from the art world as an ongoing work.) However visually interesting, Springfield's exactingly executed drawings are too obsessively attentive to formal issues of shading and line, failing to approach what might be more interesting questions, such as why Lozano and others have been, at least until very recently, excluded from the canons of Conceptual art. Springfield's mimetic reproduction removes the urgency and self-critical potency from Lozano's original, dulling General Strike Piece to a crooked copy at multiple removes from its source. Certainly, Springfield must have foreseen this result, and thus have had an ironic effect in mind....