Simon Linke is perhaps the only person more concerned with the longevity of this publication than its editors. For nearly four decades, Linke has focused on a single subject: the glossy advertisements for upcoming exhibitions that appear in Artforum’s monthly print edition. His painstakingly accurate reproductions catapulted him to fame as a leading member of the YBA generation. However, Linke’s singular focus belies the nuanced changes his Artforum project has undergone over the past thirty-five years.
The artist’s current exhibition at Darren Flook, a two-room retrospective of Linke’s greatest hits, reveals a slow transition from exact replicas of the leaflets to more materially focused interpretations. Earlier works, like Barbara Kruger at Fischbach Gallery, 1989, mimic the orderly arrangement of print ads with flat, even brushstrokes that create a near-perfect imitation of the original. Redolent of Pictures-generation artists like Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine, Linke’s early works evoke the cultural and monetary value of print advertisements. By replicating these images as paintings, he renders visible the finance-based power structures that underpin art criticism.
In recent years, Linke has taken a more gestural approach, applying thick layers of oil paint with dramatic brushstrokes. In Lucio Fontana at Hauser and Wirth, 2021, Linke abstracts a photograph of Fontana’s Ambiente spaziale con neon, 1967, offering a painterly interpretation of the gallery’s commercially driven exhibition photograph. Even as Linke has moved toward a more impressionistic rendering of the advertisingments’ images, he has continued to meticulously duplicate the text with mechanical precision. In these later works, the boundaries between the smooth lines of the letters and the rough waves of paint become more abrupt. It’s a fitting metaphor for Linke’s focus, which has evolved from a desire to reveal the economic supports that buttress one of the art world’s largest publications to an investigation into the (supposed) obsolescence of print media. These new paintings foreground the tactility of the printed page, a reminder of our distance from this aging means of distribution and the hierarchies it once embodied.