Canadian, born 1961
Sworn to Fun, Loyal to None, 2011
Acrylic on canvas mounted on wood panel
72 x 72 x 2 1/8 inches (182.9 x 182.9 x 5.4 cm)
Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, 2012
Since the publication of his acclaimed first novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture in 1991, author and artist Douglas Coupland has continued to decode technology’s ubiquitous hold on modern society through a singular mixture of sardonic wit and earnest philosophizing. His recent series of paintings updates this literary theme for the twenty-first century by disrupting the traditional channels of communication between the artist and the audience and by redefining the canvas as a primary source of information. Aesthetically similar to the painted color charts of Gerhard Richter (German, born 1932) and Ellsworth Kelly (American, born 1923), Coupland’s canvases magnify boldly hued pixels into seeming abstractions that are instantly recognizable as the QR codes ever-present in contemporary Western society. When scanned by a smartphone, each of these painted codes leads the viewer to a unique, rudimentary statement on human existence. Ranging from dark evocations (“You’ll be dead before I write these words. I tell you, you are going to miss a world of wondrous changes.”) to humorous slogans (“May the Force be with you.”), the hidden texts satisfy the current generation’s penchant for instantaneous information while enabling Coupland to bypass popular search engines such as Google and communicate directly with his audience. Ultimately, his modern memento moris remind us not only of our own mortality but also, more impressively, of technology’s stark perpetuity.
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