Scott Reeder

In his paintings, sculptures, and installations, Scott Reeder uses simple forms to address complex ideas and deploy cultural critique. He has become known for his cartoon-like style, expressive contour lines and bright colors, demonstrated infamously in his ”Cute Communists” series (2007) of famous communist leaders painted with doll-like cuteness. His other subjects include paintings of anthropomorphic objects, in a reconsideration of the familiar and mundane, and humorous references to iconic art historical works, as in Cops Ascending a Staircase (2009) (a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s most famous work). More recently, Reeder has begun to make a series of spaghetti paintings, in which the silhouettes of various types of cooked and uncooked spaghetti are spray painted onto a surface in abstract compositions.

Scott Reeder (b. 1970, USA) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.

Reeder’s work has been shown widely in exhibitions including at the Saatchi GalleryGavin Brown’s enterprise, the Daniel Reich Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art ChicagoLos Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Jack HanleyChina Art Objects, and Pat Hearn.

In 2011, Scott Reeder was the subject of a solo exhibition, ‘Chicago Works’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Reeder has been known to create many different types of work, including representational canvases, reductivist sculpture, neon lettering, lists and spray-paint on canvases decorated with pasta. The last of these – Reeder’s ‘Pasta Paintings’ – consist of the silhouettes of various types of cooked and uncooked spaghetti that have been spray painted onto a surface in abstract compositions.

His recent projects also include the feature film entitled ‘Moon Dust’, shot over the span of eleven years. Set a century in the future, it tells the tragic story of a failing resort located on the moon.

Central to Scott Reeder’s work is his humorous critique of the history and stylistic traditions of art-making. The artist is known for his wry sense of humour that incorporates both art-historical references and silly jokes.
Reeder does not only work with one or two artistic styles, nor does he operate within a single artistic movement. Rather, he jumps around from genre to genre, using artistic style as a contextual tool for his humorous, and often satirical, commentary.

While many artists – such as the Pictures Generation Louise Lawler (also featured) – tend to feature other artist’s work in their own pieces in order to comment on the nature and discourse of the fine-art world, Reeder is unusually innovative in his approach: mimicking their painting style, rather than substance. His mock appropriation of other artists’ styles include parodies of Caravaggio, Picasso, Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Rothko and Matisse.

Importantly, Reeder continues to value the role of mark-making and artistic expression. He does not attempt to ridicule the role of the artist, but rather, the essentialist approach often deployed in analysing and understanding the artistic frame work in which they exist.

He satirises the structured discourse of art history with jokes praised for having “the weight often given to seminal Conceptual Art”, yet he is able to do so playfully, without sacrificing the expression, emotion and character of the artist.

Reeder’s approach to pastiche is mocking and sarcastic, but, most importantly, it’s simple. As the artist asserts, “if you try to deconstruct why something’s funny that always kills it. [I’m] interested in a kind of extreme reduction, understatement or deadpan”. His minimalistic approach to his humour translates stylistically in his earlier pieces, such as ‘Paper at Night’ (featured), which feature bold images and bright colours that intentionally feign naivety.

‘Bread & butter’ (Dead), 2009, is a perfect example of this: an unnatural, playful pallet depicts purple and blue slabs of bread and butter as grave stones. The piece combines the uncomfortable subject of death with a playful, neo- fauvist aesthetic and sense of the everyday and common place (implicit in the cultural idiom “Bread and Butter”).

His ‘Paper at Night’ series is part of a group of work which playfully depicts and satirises political and ideological movements. In this context, ‘Paper at Night’ is evocative of covert, undercover pamphleteering and the spread of seditious messages. The dapple of rectangles in this body of works mirrors that in ‘Panda Protest’ – the play on black and white being similarly suggestive of either the press or a polarised perspective of ‘us and them’. Moreover, the cynical implications of placing one of the worlds laziest animals at the scene of a political protest are apparent.

The List, circa 2013:

Another telling example of Scott Reeder’s approach to artistic commentary is the work that featured in his solo exhibition at Lisa Cooley. His pieces included an aluminium floor sculpture made to look like crumpled paper, entitled ‘Bad idea’, 2013. He also exhibited various canvases with handwritten lists, titled for instance ‘Alternate Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen’, 2013, which included the likes of ‘Indoor Street Art’ and the scathing ‘Painting Is Dead But These Paintings Are Still Available’.

Reeder’ s lists (pictured bellow) employ a litany of comedic devices from non-sequiturs to word play and playful symbolism. His written works poke fun at the creative process and the naming of art works. In many ways his 2008 ‘Paper at Night’ pieces pre-empt his later focus on the written word and the communication and proliferation of an idea.

‘Pasta Paintings’

His experimentation with noodles elevates the status of this bizarre, everyday material and simultaneously unites it with the artistic process such that the pasta becomes an integral part of the work’s genesis. Using this approach, he has produced pieces that draw upon various artistic movements – form Russian constructivism and Minimalism to French BMPT. Various critics have interpreted this technique as an implicit critique of the essentialist approach to understanding the nature of painting as a medium in 20th century art.

Works