Exhibitions

Past
Alfred Steiner
Likelihood of Confusion
October 16 to November 15, 2014
Vulva
Watercolor on Arches 300 lb. hot press paper
2014
30 x 22 inches
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Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Likelihood of Confusion, a solo exhibition of new works by Alfred Steiner. This is the artist’s first solo offering with the gallery, featuring twelve works of watercolor on paper, two oil on medium-density fiberboard, as well as a new piece from Steiner’s “Anti-Paparazzi” series. The artist will be in attendance for the opening reception on Thursday, October 16, 2014.

For Likelihood of Confusion, Steiner reflects on the pervasive nature of media and advertising. Extending his project of reconstructing pre-existing graphic forms from carefully rendered naturalistic images, Steiner tackles trademarks, service marks, logos, and other indicia of origin. To do this, Steiner considers the idiosyncratic contours comprising these marks and, using the Freudian technique of free association, replaces each contour with a similarly shaped image. The show’s title, Likelihood of Confusion, takes its name from the legal standard for determining trademark infringement.

This technique, while inherently hit-or-miss, nevertheless results in juxtapositions of images that suggest synchronicities among themselves but also in relation to the set of ideas associated with the underlying trademark. After transforming commercial logos and amassing various objects to comprise the underlying image, the viewer is challenged to decipher the original logo as well as find commonality between the objects and the underlying image.

Rarely does Steiner select the individual segments with thematic intention; each viewer is likely to read the combination of imagery differently, and the contrast of incongruous images provides much leeway for interpretation. The one arguable exception to this rule is Panda, an aggregate of different animals that form the logo for the World Wildlife Fund: a box turtle head, an abalone shell, a wood louse, an ibis, a jellyfish, a horseshoe crab, a maggot, a poison arrow frog and a sand dollar. But even in this case, Steiner maintains that he did not decide to limit the selection of images to fauna until he had freely associated animals for the first few forms—which is hardly surprising given the prevalence of animal imagery in Steiner’s previous work.

For Vulva, Steiner reimagines the Louis Vuitton logo by assembling a screw, a pencil, a crowbar, a hockey stick, and an in-line skate. Without purposeful intention, the artist contrasts a symbol of luxury goods with items that may be interpreted as “blue collar.” Steiner explains, “I don’t necessarily try to force an agenda on these items.” However, there is a critical aspect to the conversation that the artist engages in regarding brands and their trademarks—the unavoidable presence of advertising and the oblivious absorption of imagery.

A Walther PPK pistol, a Princeton watercolor brush, a comb, a Christian Louboutain high heel, the skeleton of a human foot, an eggplant, a linoleum knife, a Bushmaster assault rifle, a Swiss Army knife with extended bottle opener, a barking seal, and a wishbone: these components are the reimagining of the Mobil Pegasus logo. Steiner exclusively sources imagery from the Internet, which he finds using image search tools, like Google Images. The artist claims he does this to achieve a semblance of authenticity with what has become the dominant source of imagery of popular culture. But because Steiner is a licensed lawyer with a background in intellectual property, it is probable that this practice also engages the specter of copyright infringement and the associated issue of fair use.

Whether the visual analysis that Steiner suggests in Likelihood of Confusion has any capacity to neutralize the toxic effect of unceasing exposure to commercial imagery is certainly debatable. At the very least, viewers of the work may have a difficult time seeing the dissected trademarks the same way again, which may function, ironically, as an advertisement for Steiner himself.

Born in 1973 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Alfred Steiner currently lives and works in New York City. The artist graduated from Miami University with degrees in mathematics and philosophy, and then went on to receive a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Steiner is included in the West Collection and the curated registries of the Drawing Center and White Columns. Selected solo exhibitions include Contrariwiseat 101/exhibit, Los Angeles, CA (2013) and Bleeding Afro at Gallery Poulsen, Copenhagen, Denmark (2012). Selected group exhibitions include Nudesat Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2013); En Plein Air at Stux Gallery, New York, NY; The Space Between at The National Arts Club, curated by Jenny Mushkin Goldman, New York, NY; Day Job at The Drawing Center, curated by Nina Katchadourian, New York, NY; Spatial Perversions at The New School, New York, NY (all 2012); The Brucennial, New York, NY (2010 and 2012).

Artist
Alfred Steiner

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