Project Background: Photographer Michael Sell’s current work explores the point at which fine art intersects with décor, and investigates how one supports or subverts the other:
“I have recently begun a body of work that samples colors from famous photographs and collapses the visual elements and meaning of each photo into a single swatch of color. These color swatches can then be used as the basis for custom paint colors, allowing viewers (or “users”) to incorporate famous photographs into their home décor without addressing the photograph’s subject, concept, or emotional content.”
Beginning August 12th Sell will make his “photoswatch” work site-specific by creating a large-scale swatch grid on the main wall of the Installation Space. Each individual color panel will reference its specific source material—in this case an actual work of art currently hanging somewhere in the Portland Building. The color panels, or swatches, will be labeled with the title and location of the source artwork, for example: Purple Fields, 9th floor, reception. As the viewer approaches the installation the multiple swatches will resemble the grid of color one sees in the paint aisle of a hardware store. On the floor in front of the grid a set of small sample size canisters of paint—all mixed to match their particular swatch color—will be offered to visitors to take home and use as they see fit.
Sell’s reduction of the artwork displayed in the Portland Building into single swatches of color calls attention to the compartmentalization of art as it is typically presented in office spaces and highlights the modest range of creative expression we’re exposed to in these settings. Allowing viewers to take home that same bit of color further underscores the idea of artwork commodification and begs the question of whether the art in commercial settings is simply décor or something more; likewise the take-away souvenir—is it just a small can of paint, or does its provenance make it something more?
About the Artist: Born in Detroit, Michigan, Michael Sell now lives in La Grande, Oregon where he is Assistant Professor of Art and Media Arts Communication at Eastern Oregon University. His media-centric imagery has been exhibited throughout Michigan and Oregon, and in select shows in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. He has presented his work at multiple Society for Photographic Education conferences and at the 2013 Far West Popular Culture and American Culture Association conference.
Viewing Hours & Location: 8 am to 5 pm, Monday – Friday. The Portland Building is located at 1120 SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland.
For more information on the Portland Building Installation Space series, including images, proposals and statements for all the installations since 1994, go to www.racc.org/installationspace.