Matt Keegan's Don't Worry, 2012

Matt Keegan
Don't Worry, 2012

Sculpture

Stainless steel, spray finish

40 x 48 x 10 in

Simone Subal Gallery

Matt Keegan's Don't Worry is based on a poster by James Richards, of a poem by Josef Albers.

A significant portion of our daily conversations contain stock phrases; “the plot thickens,” “think nothing of it,” “we have to stop meeting like this.” It’s easy to forget that these sentences come from somewhere; that they may have first emerged in a novel or play or movie. Every time we use them, we’re referring back in time, drawing on the resources of the past to fill the space of our present. Matt Keegan & James Richards attempt to materialize this process of referentiality and appropriation, freezing the moment when words pass between us and when phrases unfold into new contexts.

Independent practitioners of contemporary Conceptual art who engage in appropriation and found “material,” Matt Keegan and James Richards join here to create Don’t Worry (2012), a wall-mounted sculpture that considers communication, interpretation, and understanding. The short phrase “Don’t worry, what happens happens mostly without you” is laser-cut onto stainless steel. The format, font, and layout are all directly copied from a poster originally made by James Richards. Richards, in turn, had taken the words from a poem by German artist Josef Albers. Yet the poem, in its original German, read “calm down” (beruhige dich) instead of “don’t worry.” At what point was it replaced with “don’t worry”? By the translator? By Richards? The alteration is subtle, but its presence alerts us to the evolution of meaning in repetition. Keegan’s sculpture isn’t the same as Richards’s poster, and Richards’s poster wasn’t the same as Albers’s poem. The repeated transformation of the phrase echoes the sentiment it contains: what happens to an artwork, after completed, happens without the artist and outside of their control. Such is appropriation—what was pure language for Albers became graphic representation for Richards, and the flatness of Richards’s poster was remodeled into a sculptural object in his collaboration with Keegan.

Borrowing, citing, and quoting have always been essential to art and text. What Keegan & Richards remind us is that when language is the art, the viewer is essential to the work’s completion. Similar to the experience of pieces by Conceptual art founders such as Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner—both of whom are represented in the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art for Rollins College—it is through the viewer’s digestion and analysis of the selected language that the piece is activated. In this case, is the “don’t worry” ironic? Comforting? The work reminds us of a game of telephone, where language is transformed by the listener interpreting the voice of the speaker. --Kelly Presutti www.rollins.edu/cornell-fine-arts-museum/collecti…

Matt Keegan's Don't Worry is based on a poster by James Richards, of a poem by Josef Albers.

A significant portion of our daily conversations contain stock phrases; “the plot thickens,” “think… more

© Respective owners, assignees etc.