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Optically Unconscious by Wade Jeffree at Plus 81 Gallery

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Curated for Wade Jeffree’s show at plus81 gallery NY.

Jeffree is known for his unabashed attitude and forthright approach to design using his distinctive sense of humor, and clarity and simplicity of intent. He is fluent in digital and print production, and in this first solo presentation of his personal works, Jeffree explores the crossover in the practices of design and the idea of online persona. Through the physical representation of the online culture, Jeffree questions the virtual platform’s capacity for contextual individuality. In the cyber social-scape, the cultivation of persona is informed through an extremely rich visual library, which is further amplified by the elimination of physical necessities, allowing participants previously unforeseen possibilities. The platforms of visual stimuli, information, and genes, such as blogs, enable rapid dissemination of visuals, however at the cost of reducing them to expressions within the categorical and infrastructural limits; those of a like, a share, or a post. This automation nurtures what the artist terms the “optically unconscious” population in the (post-)post Internet era. The pieces in the exhibition use the language of graphic design undermining and at the same time reinforcing the path the genre has cultivated over the recent years. The toilet paper stands in for the dispensability, circularity and seemingly endless mass of image-reservoir as if scrolling through the interminable blogs. The idea of referential culture and loss of context within the contemporary visual platforms are also manifested into the form of posters, which suggest the utmost simple operation involved in forming one’s identity – that of clicking and swiping. The images are removed from its origin, one click at a time. And the pieces become a paradox as its existence in the physical realm is much more limited in its capacity to be distributed and socialized – the accessibility according to its location, the duration of the exhibition itself etc., but it will live online for the rest of its existence with virtually magnified accessibility, only to be seen rather than experienced first-hand. The image is emptied out of its physical presence – and becomes a hollowed sign. It is an image adrift, removed from its narrative, loses its context, purpose, and raison d’etre. It drowns in the sea of existing visual stimuli, returning back to the origin of its own critique. The work questions and affirms, recognizes and problematizes what is closest to himself; graphic design, which is both the result and the origin of hyper-accelerated consumption of images.

Wade Jeffree is a New York based designer, art director and metal-loving vegan from Melbourne. Jeffree uses clear and occasionally humorous visuals, making arresting and communicative prints, digital, and beyond. He has worked with Nike, Columbia University, Next Wave Art Festival, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), The Desginers Foundry, Styles Upon Styles Records, D:Fuse, Function Engineering, Dumbo Art Improvement District, L’oreal Melbourne Fashion Week, Aishti among others, and he has been featured in T Magazine, Juxtapoz, Cool Hunting, iDN, Art Fucks me, Paper, and Design Taxi among many others.

Text by Taro Masushio