‘To think we started at the bottom…’, Exhibition Literature, Apr 2010

Dan Wilde, ‘To think we started at the bottom…’, Moving Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne 16-30 April 2010

‘To think we started at the bottom…’ is an intelligent collection of prints which aims to uncover the critical potential of modernist promotional material.  Often bathetic and always deliberately deadpan, Dan Wilde’s appropriation of defunct advertising brochures is a backward glance at the then progressive materials made available during the late 1900s.

Although somewhat mundane when compared with the century’s epic political achievements, the invention of products such as steel, glass, polystyrene and bitumen were essential in establishing the premise of a ‘Modern’ utopian society.  Following the infrastructural advances of the Industrial Revolution, the use of newly developed industrial materials also required persuasive publicity material.  It is this aspect that Wilde chooses to study for this, his first solo exhibition at Newcastle’s Moving Gallery.

Examining materials synonymous with construction and habitual modernity, Wilde presents a new series of silkscreen and photo-polymer prints which adapt advertisements from 1960s British architecture magazines.  The artist’s alterations to these sources, always induced by a process of elimination, expose a paradoxical process where art is created through the removal of detail and historical context.

Ambiguous imagery and claims such as ‘experience counts’ are orphaned from their original commercial assignment and in turn become part of  a wry, visual commentary on Modernism’s struggles and failings.  Despite being freed from their original purpose, these pictorial fragments remain bold and immediate.  Conflating the optical clarity of advertising with a compelling conceptual complexity, they proffer an alternative intellectual interaction with a very problematic term.

In A Joy Forever, for example, Wilde coyly asserts the absurdity of modernist ambitions by presenting an amusing adaption of an advertisement for polystyrene roofing tiles.  An image of an attractive young woman, brandishing the tiles in a somewhat provocative manner, is accompanied by the phrase ‘a joy forever.’  The tone is mildly sardonic and invariably questions the propitious assertions of a pedestrian architectural  innovation.

Sincerely developed ‘with the future in mind’, these familiar commodities, once symbolic of progress and change, continue to structure today’s architectural spaces.  So although the fetishisation of an everyday industrial product seems anomalous, and even absurd; Wilde’s astute enquiries also remind us that these banal, material innovations have shaped the aesthetic of the world we inhabit.