June 2008, Studio Visit with Luke Butler
Work in progress Captain, Crew II where we can see how Butler builds up his characteristic gray
Luke Butler embraces many different methods of doubling, copying and repetition in order to confuse the viewer's perception of past, present and real. When entering his studio 2 months ago to participate in a jury panel where I was asked to nominate 6 artists, Butler was one of them; however, the work I thought was his was in fact only half his. Butler's colleague and fellow classmate who had a studio across the hall asked Butler if he could recreate Butler's whole studio next door to Butler's real studio, except the twist was it would all be out of paper. This was 2 days before open studio and Butler did not think his classmate could pull it off, but to his surprise he walked in the day of open studios and found a complete replica of his studio next to his real studio. The problem? There was absolutely no label or identifying factor that would tell the viewer that it was in fact not Butler who created this double.
Detail of Captain, Crew II
Leaders of Men 37: Batman and Robin, Collage. This image depicts Gerald Ford and __________. For
Butler, Ford is "obscure enough to be a subject that can be manipulated and reinterpreted into many
landscapes, plots and stories."
Leader of Men 38: Agamemnon, Collage and Black Flower, Obituary
Black Flower, Obituary. Here Butler attempts to summarize his life's work,
although his life, as an artist, just now graduating from CCA is about to begin. As
with other works, the artist utilizes an almost humorous sincerity as he likens
himself to the videogame, Viet Cong, "…a potent force…” The image depicting
Butler once again reminds the reader of the borrowed nature of this obituary as
the artists head sits ever so precariously on top of a low v-necked, hair showing
sex-symbol type of character.
George Washington Letters #s 12 and 5. Using found paper Butler writes a series of correspondence to
someone called "My Dearest" from George Washington. Displayed with the texts are explanatory panels,
which neatly type out the sometimes-illegible text. This tactic makes the "original" hand-written letters
seem like found objects that the artist has uncovered and ever so kindly, translated. However, upon closer
inspection the content is completely off, talking about toilet paper and other nonsense.
As I walked around the studios the day of the jury, I first walked into the duplicate, non-Butler but looked like Butler studio. I was intrigued immediately – wondering why such seemingly beautiful paintings should be re-interpreted in paper, what this had to do with the content, and so on. My colleagues and I discussed and continued to browse. So into the next studio I went and what did I find? The real Butler – the paper replicas that I thought would look better in real life, and guess what? They did.
I left CCA that day thinking that Butler had done this to himself, replicated his whole studio into paper. Needless to say, I preferred the real deal but was curious so I called Butler up and asked for a studio visit. I explained my confusion and thoughts, and Butler felt similarly. He told me how he found his family in the "fake Butler" studio oohhhing and aahhhing over the work, telling passerbys, "This is my son/brother's work!" Butler then played host all day, guiding visitors in the right direction, and clearing up any and all confusion between the two Butler studios.
THE END with numbers going clockwise 26, 4, 9, 8, 32. In THE END Butler once again plays with
contemporary mythology. For him, this is an image that we often see in passing but is rarely even still,
enduring, a constant reminder. By making it static, the image is like a skipping record, stuck on one image
and therefore contradicting the entire notion of an ending.
George Washington Letters #s 3, 6, 9, 4, 7
Left: Starsky and Hutch IV and Right: Self Portrait. Two older works from Butler.
A portion of the artist's research materials.
On top of desk is a Butler original painting. Below, is a Butler copy from open studios, which the other
artist has given to Butler. In fact, he has given Butler all of the work and does not care to keep it.
We chatted for a while and it turns out that this doubling might have been more thought out and perfect than Butler or the other artist could have expected. Butler plays characters and his characters play characters. Both abstract and representative the familiar figures of Star Trek play both themselves and also Butler's memory of their characters as an always-incapacitated crew.
Butler freezes moments, hordes images and has an excitingly vivid imagination. You can see some of Butler's work at Silverman Gallery this summer as part of Mini Market, a boutique and exhibition, which will premier in San Francisco in August 2008.
Luke Butler lives and works in San Francisco, CA and is a recent MFA graduate from California College of Arts.
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief