Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966–1986 opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art on November 17, 2017. The exhibition explores the use of the photocopier as a creative tool, from its public emergence in the 1960s to the dawn of the digital era in the 1980s.
Decades before computer programs and smartphone apps made digital manipulation commonplace, the photocopier offered novel ways to transform images. Negotiating the device’s associations with reproducibility and disposability, photocopy artists produced a variety of small edition prints.
The machine’s democratic availability at offices, local copy shops, and eventually people’s homes, as well as the low cost, enabled artists to experiment outside the confines of a traditional studio. Using the copier as both a camera and printing press, they achieved imaginative, often unexpected results.
Drawn from the Whitney’s collection, Experiments in Electrostatics focuses on three artists and one collective—Edward Meneeley, Lesley Schiff, Robert Whitman, and the International Society of Copier Artists. The exhibition includes still lifes, portraits, abstractions, and collages, highlighting the possibilities for self-expression through a tool designed for easy duplication.
Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966–1986 will be on view in the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery on the Museum’s third floor.
This exhibition is organized by Michelle Donnelly, curatorial fellow.