Since the late 1970s, Charles Gaines is highly regarded as an important exponent of conceptual art. In his drawings, works on paper and photographs he continually investigates how rule-based processes and systems construct the experiences of aesthetics, politics and language. By employing multi-layered practices, including images, texts and grids, as well as working in a serial character, Gaines examines image structures and critically questions forms of representation. His formal and at times mathematic methods are often ruptured by mysterious and illogical elements and thus explore what constitutes the rational and the irrational, the objective and the subjective.
"I liked to think about ideas and language and indeterminacies and so forth. And I was always thinking about “why did I do that” in a world where you were not supposed to think about such things. But then I ran into these artists—I mean also going back to Sol [LeWitt]— for whom the very idea of art was on the level of intellectual or critical propositions and said, “Well, you know, there are people in the world who are driven by thinking about art as an ideational space.” Generally, even though they were mostly pragmatists and empiricists, they were so very careful about the excesses of language with respect to artistic production. That’s where I was different. I was precisely interested in the excesses of language. My use of systems is not as an empirical or documentary tool. I use systems in order to provoke the issues around representation."
Courtney J. Martin in Conversation with Charles Gaines in Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989, The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2014
Image: Numbers and Trees: Central Park Series III: Tree #8, Andrea, 2016, acrylic sheet, acrylic paint and photograph , 81,3 x 61 x 9,5 cm