Plaster Surrogates

  • 1989
  • Allan McCollum
  • enamel paint on plaster
  • diverse afmetingen
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1989
  • Inventory number 1896

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Polyphonic collection


'Plaster Surrogates' consists of 288 identical objects. In every case, there is a black mark in a white border finished with a grey frame. In fact that is what we think we see, because a closer look reveals that the “paintings” are plaster objects cast from one mould. There are eight different sizes. As they have been painted in different shades of white and grey, no two are the same. They are presented in rows close together and above each other. In his work, McCollum asks the question to what extent an artwork has to be original and unique. His works always consist of similar elements which reveal small differences and have been signed and numbered. Therefore each element is unique, but at the same time it can be exchanged for another arbitrary element from the series.

Every presentation of McCollum’s work differs from a previous one because he leaves out elements or adds them or arranges them differently. But the difference is not essential. People in society behave in the same way that McCollum’s objects are at the same time both unique and one of many. On the one hand, an individual wants to become part of a group and takes on the codes of conduct of that group, but on the other hand he tries to distinguish himself or profile himself as being different from that group. He can do this by bringing a special product into his home, such as a work of art. But this profile is relative as well. Everyone has their own unique object and therefore we ultimately all behave the same.

McCollum uses a neutral but recognizable shape as the starting point for a series. In 'Plaster Surrogates' he made an object which can be experienced as a framed work of art by anyone. However, the significant part, the surface of the work, has been made an even black so that there is actually no image. We recognize the object as a work of art although it does not have the specific quality which makes a work of art interesting: its own face. Therefore it becomes a meaningless piece of décor. McCollum is interested in this phenomenon. His surrogates are not even derived from an original; there is no original. The function of artworks as commercial goods also plays a role in McCollum’s work. He sells his work in the same way that shops display consumer goods: in large quantities and all sorts of versions so that everyone can select what they like most.

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