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Charles Gaines talks to Pac Pobric in Artnet on today's art

"Some People See the 1970s as a Golden Age of Contemporary Art. Charles Gaines Thinks Today’s Art Is Actually Much Better," by Pac Pobric for Artnet

It’s easy to get the wrong impression about the Los Angeles-based artist Charles Gaines’s pictures. On screens, the works look glitchy or digitized, even though they are painted painstakingly by hand. In person, many of his portraits look from afar as if they are solid—an impression that dissolves upon approach, as it becomes clear that they’re made of hundreds of tiny, vibrating, almost Pointillist dabs of paint, all set inside enormous grids.

That sense of instability—is this really what I thought it was?—is key to his work. For more than 50 years now, in ways both subtle and explicit, Gaines has been chipping away at the suggestion, born of the Enlightenment, that historical truths can be secured and made permanent. Most recently, he has been sharpening a new critique of identity, creating a series of works depicting individuals who self-identify as coming from mixed racial heritage. (The works are on view at Hauser & Wirth in London through May 1.) 

Like his earlier “Identity Politics” series, which he showed at Paula Cooper in New York in 2018, the new works fizzle and pop with nervous energy, which is not dissimilar from Gaines’s manner of speaking. A dialogue with him feels like a pursuit for specificity, as he seeks exact phrases to articulate his sensibility.

As Gaines prepared to open a show of historic works at the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon, New York, Artnet News caught up with him about racial politics in America, why deaccessioning is essential, and why, seemingly all of a sudden, everyone is interested in his work.