Shadows V, Set of 3
To make his series Shadows (1980), Gaines subjected 20 potted plants to a uniform procedure. Each is pictured four times: a photograph of the plant, a photograph of its shadow, a drawing of the plant, and a drawing of its shadow. Instead of lending structure to disparate entities, this system serves a counterintuitive purpose, dissolving the object. Just as meaning can be drained from a word through relentless repetition, Gaines’s thorough application of an invented representational system undermines the thing-ness of the simplest thing. Here, the artist effectively questions a concept as vast as objective truth by presenting an alternate theory of an object as ordinary as a houseplant
Charles Gaines orchestrates opportunities for aesthetic judgments, often turning mundane objects and spaces into newly indeterminate propositions. By adhering to self-defined processes, he explores the structures by which we make meaning, supplanting objective claims with the infinitely interpretable. Gaines is currently based in Los Angeles, where he teaches at California Institute of the Arts. He is influenced by John Cage, and like Cage’s, his work has served as a seminal guidepost for a younger generation of concept-oriented image makers.