Wade Guyton
Wade Guyton:   Painting* without Paint

Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2008. Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen.

Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2006. Inkjet on canvas.

An old saying goes:

If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . .  well then . . .  it might just be a DUCK.

Today, we live in a postmedium age. A hybrid age. There are no more easy categories or rote definitions to live up to. Perhaps more than ever before, we are confronted by very strange, hybrid works of art. Works of unidentifiable mediums. And we do not know what to call them.

Many artworks nowadays look, act and feel like paintings, and are  certainly easily mistaken for such, even very close up. But they are technically not paintings at all.

Case in point is the work of artist Wade Guyton. His ‘paintings’ are in fact prints on linen canvas, made with an Epson printer.

The accidents and mishaps that occur in his printer, as he folds, drags, squashes and intentionally jams the canvas through the printer result in a fascinating series of mis-registrations, streaks, and degradations of chance and accident.

It is not Guyton – but rather his machine – that causes these pattern overruns, glitches and aberrations that repeat throughout his canvas. In true Warholian tradition, Guyton claims he is similarly too “lazy” to actually paint, much as Warhol once claimed he too would rather be a machine.

Installation of Wade Guyton’s ‘OS’ at The Whitney Museum of Art, October 2012 – January 2013.


WORDS BY:  John D’Agostino

But most importantly, Guyton’s work acts like a painting. And much like Gerhard Richter’s stripe paintings (which are in fact prints as well) Guyton identifies them as paintings himself. This suggests that the history, legacy – and perhaps even the future of painting itself – lies not in the paint, nor what the ‘painting’ is actually ‘made’ from, but rather  in its working functions, in its ability to command, to provoke, to hypnotize and beguile the viewer.

Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2008. Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen.

Wade Guyton, Untitled,
2008. Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen.

It is high time to call for a re-framing of just what painting is in the 21st century, and what is really all about. Painting is not about paint. Let me say that again: painting is not about paint, nor does it have to be made with paint.

Whether or not a painting is actually made with paint is perhaps the least interesting thing about it. And artists have been painting without paint for centuries now, from Francesco di Giorgio’s Studiolo from the Ducal Palace at The Metropolitan Museum (using shades of wood) to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Favrile glass, which is perhaps the ultimate examplar, because the few sections of his stained glass windows that are actually painted over (such as faces or hands) are much less effective compared to the flowing use of layers of glass to suggest everything else.

I hope we can now move past these exhausted ideologies and old world categories. As professor Lance Winn and others have called for, it is time to discuss what Mr. Guyton’s paintings actually mean, and whether their study and reflection is worthwhile or not. As Marshall McLuhan once likened, as one medium becomes re-mediated and hybridized into the next, sometimes the new medium may actually fulfill the promises of the old.


Wade Guyton is represented by Petzel Gallery in NY and Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris. Wade Guyton OS exhibited at The Whitney Museum in January 2013.