William Monk: Untitled (zip) II – VII

PACE Gallery

May 5 – May 15, 2020


Pace Gallery presents William Monk: Untitled (zip) II–VII, a solo exhibition bringing together six new paintings created by the artist over the past month as a response to life in quarantine at his studio in London.

Mark Beasley on William Monk

This series expands upon a single painting Monk made in 2017 depicting a mysterious and hovering vapor trail set against a vibrant, luminescent sky. In these recent paintings, the artist expands the landscape and unfolds it into a visual mantra to capture, in his words, this “silenced and beautiful apocalypse.” Monk’s new body of work will be unveiled on Pace’s online platform on May 5 and will remain on view through May 15, concurrent to the online iteration of Frieze New York. 

William Monk, Untitled (zip) II, 2020. Oil on canvas. 13 3/4 × 23-5/8 in. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery, New York / London / Hong Kong / Seoul / Geneva / Palo Alto.

Curated by Mark Beasley, Curatorial Director at Pace Gallery, Untitled (zip) II–VII features six paintings by the artist that, as Beasley notes, “let loose an unidentifiable and cryptic symbol that, rising to meet the sky, variously reminds one of an erupting volcano, cigarette smoke, a sequence from a sci-fi movie, or the vapor trail of a ground-to-air-missile.” For Monk, these paintings reflect his continued preoccupation with creating a space for the mind to travel. As with poetry, Monk’s work seeks to flesh out the abstract and reminds us to slow down. Or, as he says, “Painting is the antithesis of life outside ourselves.” The online exhibition presents a range of source materials, from iconic films to archival imagery, that have influenced the artist, offering an in-depth look into—and context around—the evolutionary process of Monk’s dynamic painting practice.

William Monk, Untitled (zip) III, 2020, Oil on canvas, 35 cm × 60 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery, New York / London / Hong Kong / Seoul / Geneva / Palo Alto.

The cinematic and photographic memory looms large in Monk’s imagination. In particular, he cites Stanley Kubrick’s teen-gang dystopic future vision A Clockwork Orange, Michelangelo Antonioni’s revolutionary Sixties hippie movie Zabriskie Point, and Ridley Scott’s bleak future vision of tech-landscapes and artificial intelligence Blade Runner as some of the films that have shaped his visual language and memory. Source imagery aside, Monk is clear that his paintings ultimately exist without a singular and fixed meaning: “I don’t start from a position of knowing, and I don’t always end up there either.” Instead, viewers of these works are witnesses to a visual mantra, a sign and image that builds painting by painting, one through six, or two through seven.

William Monk, Untitled (zip) IV, 2020, Oil on canvas, 35 cm × 60 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery, New York / London / Hong Kong / Seoul / Geneva / Palo Alto.

Untitled (zip) II–VII marks the first exhibition in the second installment of Pace’s online series, which will feature five monographic shows spotlighting contemporary artists from the gallery’s roster, presented online throughout May and June. Similarly, the exhibitions to follow, by Nigel Cooke and Loie Hollowell, are each comprised of new works created by these artists during this period of isolation and will also be unveiled for the first time as part of Pace’s online program. Additionally, exhibitions by Milan-based artist Nathalie Du Pasquier and Beijing-based Yin Xiuzhen will feature recent works by each of the artists, representing a global perspective at this time of challenges shared across the world.

William Monk’s studio. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery, New York / London / Hong Kong / Seoul / Geneva / Palo Alto.

William Monk (b. 1977, Kingston upon Thames, UK) paints enigmatic and vibrant works, using starkly divisional compositions and often working in extensive series that gradually evolve over time. The canvases carry irregular intensities of detail, line, foreground, and background; a sense of repetition breaks down the figuration, creating visual mantras. This rhythm happens throughout Monk’s work, surrendering figurative logic to arrive at something stranger and more powerful. Atmospheric and energetic, these paintings invite a more direct physical connection, drawing in the space between our inner and outer realms of experience.