American, born 1951
Enamel on Masonite
22 x 21 1/2 in. (55.9 x 54.6 cm)
Gift of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, 2009
Charles Clough began his career as a member of the vibrant art community that enlivened his native Buffalo, New York, during the 1970s. In 1974, he partnered with Robert Longo in founding Hallwalls, a space in the thin passageway between their studios, where they exhibited their work and that of their fellow artists. Clough is associated with the Pictures Generation, a loosely knit group of artists that includes Longo, John Baldessari, Mike Bildo, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, and many others, who, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, appropriated, manipulated, and recontextualized familiar imagery from consumer culture and art history. Clough works from photographs of masterpieces by artists both historic and contemporary, which he mounts on Masonite and overpaints in vigorous, transformative strokes of dazzling color. In the paintings on view here, thick layers of enamel are applied by hand, scraped away, and applied anew, creating a riot of neon hues that obliterate the original source. Clough's gestural style looks back to abstract expressionism—he is particularly influenced by Willem de Kooning—but his methodology has consistently kept pace with technology, for he meticulously photographs and digitizes his paintings, storing them in an image base that he mines for future projects. By starting with copies, by creating copies of copies, and by documenting the copying process, Clough creates work that is both the real thing and its facsimile, and in doing so questions the authority of the original object and the presence of the artist’s hand in its making. The Vogels are Clough's principal collectors; since 1978 they have amassed some 400 examples of his work.