MAKI Gallery is pleased to present Exactly Wrong, Canada-based artist Tammi Campbell's first solo exhibition in Asia. Premiering across both Tennoz I and Omotesando, Tokyo, the extensive survey will showcase nearly 30 new paintings that continue the artist's practice of replicating iconic artworks by Frank Stella, Ed Ruscha, Josef Albers, and for the first time, Andy Warhol. Campbell has intervened in the works with her signature simulated packaging materials—wrapping or covering them in hyperreal bubble wrap or corrugated cardboard that is actually cast acrylic polymer—to obscure the hard-edge abstraction or color studies underneath.
The exhibition title is drawn from a quote by Andy Warhol, "When you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something." For Campbell, this phrase designates the moment she knows a painting is done—when it can be described as exactly wrong. It's the point at which you start to notice the bubble wrap is thick and hefty, communicating none of the airiness you would expect, that the corrugated cardboard is only half filled and the packing tape doesn't waver when you pass it; it's when the materials suddenly transform from something instantly recognizable into a deeply unfamiliar thing. Just wrong enough to be right, until it isn't.
The introduction of Warhol as a subject marks a shift in focus in Campbell's practice in terms of art historical periods (from Modernism to Pop Art). Yet, it's also a reflection of a deepening consideration of the means and meaning of replication and how her work responds to a legacy of engagement with those ideas, by Warhol and others. To this end, nearly half of the exhibition is devoted to reproductions of Warhol's works. Drawn and painted in the style of the original, the classic red paint on the ripped label of Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot) with Masking Tape (2020) runs over the edge of a peeling piece of tape of Campbell's creation, while the more sculptural Brillo Soap Pads Box Flattened (2021) demonstrates a new casting technique innovated by the artist that allows its shape to correspond directly with the original version. Similarly to her past selections of key works or series in an artist's practice—like Frank Stella's Black Paintings or Josef Albers' Homage to the Square (which is also represented in this exhibition)—Campbell chose to reproduce what have become some of Warhol's most well-known works. Not only in a commercial sense, but also in our collective cultural imagination.
For Exactly Wrong, Campbell has assembled works by white male artists that have achieved the kind of entrenched canonization that's predicated on countless museum shows, ubiquitous collecting by private and public collections, and ongoing scholarly attention. The immense amount of time and effort Campbell invests in reproducing these works can be understood as both a nod to the past, but also a representation of the labor that has been committed to upholding their status—energy that could be redirected to those artists who have yet to be recognized. Campbell's encased works are subtle in their final form, functioning superficially as delicious examples of expertly executed trompe l'oeil. However, once the illusion dematerializes with closer inspection, the painting's apparent interim status of a work in transit prompts a series of questions. What unseen person is responsible for transporting them? Where are they going? And, perhaps most importantly, what might replace them on the empty wall?
Written by Amanda Nudelman
Press release courtesy of MAKI.