Over the past six years Reena Spaulings has honed a glamorous downtown New York image while exploring the ambiguities of her double identity as both artist and gallerist. Producing a collection of cover versions of the Velvet Underground LP White Light/White Heat, she displayed her affinity with as well as her distance from Warhol’s Factory scene. Her series of money paintings and irreverent portraits of prominent art dealers similarly reveal her interest in art’s status as an exchangeable commodity.
Spaulings herself is a kind of commodity. As a brand name that appears in various contexts and media, Reena Spaulings plays on the market value and social function of identity. She is also a fiction, appearing, for example, as the main character in the 2004 novel Reena Spaulings, by Bernadette Corporation, a group of artists and writers formed in the mid-1990s. Fiction, for the artist, is a strategy that exploits the abstraction and mediations of lifestyle culture in order to open up unfixed, non-individualised ways of doing, making and appearing.
In conjunction with its slippery authorship, the flag on display here undermines symbols of mass loyalty to a system or state while displacing painting from its conventional position on the wall. An emblem of a do-it-yourself ideology, it presents a provisional alternative to the readymade roles and allegiances presented by the market. Spaulings often makes reference in her own works to those of the artists she exhibits at the eponymous gallery in New York; this wallpaper pattern is based on jpegs of paintings from Merlin Carpenter’s 2009 exhibition The Opening at Simon Lee gallery, London.