By examining new ways to rethink and translate visual information and cultural codes in the gaps between Minimalism and Pop Art, and through an interest in process-based performative practice, their work has exerted significant influence on younger artists in a variety of ways. Their individual approaches are the result of a critical engagement with prevailing ideas in conceptual art and have become paradigms for several tendencies in contemporary art. In this sense, the work of these artists could be seen as precursors, or perhaps as a source, of today’s conceptual art practice. In spite of these artists’ impact in the long term, their conceptual practice has resisted topical and up-to-date labeling. They were and are less determined by predominant trends or transient genre classifications, but rather were driven by personal interests and necessities, deriving from a critical look at questions and changes of artistic production within their everyday environment, and tied intrinsically to their historical contexts.
A number of artists in the exhibition reveal the importance of practice that is rooted in the popular culture of the western tradition, and blurring the borders between "high" and "low". The work of John Baldessari (*1931) and Ed Ruscha (*1937) for instance, conflated visual information and text with a subtle irony towards conceptual intellectualism early on in their careers. Repositioning painterly abstraction by adopting appropriated imagery from the mass media with linguistic investigations on canvas, their work lies in the hybrid between painting and photography. By investigating and rethinking form at the edge of Minimal Art, Richard Artschwager's (*1923) work provokes stereotypes about perception, the aesthetic, and material within art and the everyday, whereas the practice of British artist Richard Hamilton (*1922) draws connections and distinction between art, product design and popular culture.
The logic of cinema and film has had a seminal impact on artists today, and is another important trope of the exhibition. Los Angeles based Kenneth Anger (*1927) is a key figure of American Experimental Avant-Garde Cinema. His films have had a profound impact on post-war visual popular culture and inspired many filmmakers and artists alike. Anger forged a hallucinatory, daringly erotic style of non-narrative filmmaking, oscillating between prosaic Hollywood movies, occult rituals and the iconography of gay culture. The exhibition features his film Invocation of my Demon Brother from 1969, a selection of film stills and a site-specific installation from his book Hollywood Babylon (1959/1975). Creating surreal, near seamless collages with film stills since the 1970's, London-based John Stezaker (*1949) addresses the autonomy of the self-enclosed image. By eclectically combining and appropriating printed matter and cinema references as disparate source material, Stezaker lifts the image and the sublime on the same level.
Following a process-orientated work approach and translating art into the social and media space, Paul Thek's (1933-1988) Meat pieces and Newspaper paintings from the 1960s radically rethink Pop Art's subject matter. Like a personal mythology evolving around the practice of performance, the world of Greek born and New York based Lucas Samaras (*1936) focuses on self-depiction and identity. Working for more than fifty years on a performance-based life-archive in the sense of an ongoing self portrait, he has substantiated his own image in diverse media, such as assemblages, sculptures and photo-collages.
Source Codes is not a retrospective or historical exhibition in an ordinary sense. Rather it points towards the present by focusing on the work of some artists whose earlier viewpoints and "Gesamtkunstwerk" have been inspirations for younger artists today. It juxtaposes both early and late work by these artists, as it seeks to comprehend the notion of influence reciprocally, both time- and process-based. The positions joined are less presented as a group because of any shared genre classification, but rather because their oeuvre is considered to be cohesive over a longer period of time, defying the artistic mainstream, dominant trends and the prevailing marketing mechanisms of the art system.