Untitled, 2009

Included in the exhibition: Echoes of Laocoön

“Beshty has frequently experimented with photography’s deadpan recording ability, using the mechanics of its preservation of information about objects and places in specific moments of time.”

– Jeffrey Kastner

Walead Beshty is known for his highly experimental approach to his chosen mediums, photography in particular. In his series of Travel Pictures and Transparencies, he exposes photographic paper to the x-ray machines at airports, resulting in accidental abstract compositions. His cyanotypes, such as Untitled, are based on one of the oldest photographic techniques (first used in 1842), in which a chemical emulsion is exposed to the famous Los Angeles sunlight that creates a bright blue imprint known as Prussian Blue.

Walead Beshty, Untitled, 2009, cyanotype at ILEANA Contemporary Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia


Untitled, 2009
signed with the artist’s initials and numbered WBC02009SSP on the reverse
cyanotype on paper
20 by 15.5 cm.
Unique cyanotype from a series of 100. 

Side Street Projects, Pasadena
Private Collection, United States

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This technique of photography without a camera is particularly interesting within the context of medium specificity. Just as the flattened picture plane of the abstract expressionist painters emphasised the purest form of painting, Beshty reduces photography to its constitutive elements: light captured on paper. After all, the literal meaning of the word photography is ‘drawing with light’.  

What makes the Beshty’s cyanotypes even more interesting is how they complicate the relationship between object and representation. By crumpling the paper before exposing it to sunlight, the photogram captures the creases in the paper photographically, but the creases are also actually there. In nineteenth century debates on the nature of photography this physical connection between object and representation was called the ‘indexicality’ of the medium, which was the philosophical basis for photography’s claim to being a truthful representation of reality.

Walead Beshty (b. 1976) was born in the United Kingdom and based in Los Angeles. His work is internationally acclaimed and has been included in prestigious exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennale in New York. Beshty’s work is collected by the world’s most important museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.

Selected solo exhibitions
2020 Kunst Museum Winterthur
2020 MAST Foundation, Bologna
2019 Petzel Gallery, New York
2019 Musee d’Art Moderne, Geneva
2019 Rodolphe Janssens, Brussels
2018 Thomas Dane, Napels
2018 Regen Projects, Los Angeles
2017 Rat Hole Gallery, Tokyo
2016 Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
2014 Barbican Center, London
2013 Power Station, Dallas
2011 Ullens Center, Beijing
2009 Hirschhorn Museum, Washington
2006 Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles
2004 P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York

Selected collections
Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Institute of Chicago 
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles
Miami Museum of Art, Miami
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Pérez Art Museum, Miami
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Tate, London
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

View full list of exhibitions and collections