Osbaldeston’s work is concerned with the production, positioning and reception of art.
The work of David Osbaldeston (born Middlesbrough, 1968, lives in Manchester and Glasgow) has a seductive air of familiarity. His subject matter not only slips neatly into the space between art and life, but also articulates the strangeness of reconstructing the past through the eyes of the present, which will itself inevitably slip away. Using drawing, woodcut and etching – an anachronistic, perhaps redundant, method of production – Osbaldeston produces work that resists assimilation, and which instead explores the creative space between original and copy. His practice appears to draw on his audience's nostalgia for certain phenomena, including the rationalist aesthetics of modernism. Osbaldeston's projects interrogate the galleries in which they are situated, and the support structures that surround such cultural sites. For his Matt's Gallery exhibition, Your Answer Is Mine (2006), the artist created a billboard-sized etching that resembled a giant photocopy, and which was meticulously constructed from an absurd array of self-penned ideological pronouncements. His recent exhibition Another Shadow Fight (2008), at International Project Space, involved posters influenced by an eclectic range of sources, including the polemical writings of Wyndham Lewis and a series of works by artist Sidney Nolan. The posters were used to construct a dilapidated version of a newspaper kiosk, one originally designed by Bauhaus pioneer Herbert Bayer.
For Nought to Sixty Osbaldeston presents The Pleasure of Your Company (2008), which consists of a series of 57 etchings. The different works reproduce invitation cards for projects at ICA, dating from the year of its first solo show in 1950 to 2007. The events range from a James Joyce poetry recital in 1950, to exhibitions by artists such as Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Barbara Kruger, Mike Kelley and Cerith Wyn Evans. Osbaldeston's works are reconstructed 'ghosts' of the originals, and are produced in an edition of one (plus one artist's proof), thus negating the commodification usually inherent within editioned work. Such works expose the labouriousness of his endeavour and what Osbaldeston describes as an absurd counter to the logic of the globalised economy.
Osbaldeston's decision to research the archive of the ICA, and to re-work old preview cards, enables him to present a visual commentary on the organisation's history – and to comment, in part, on the anniversary celebrations of which Nought to Sixty is a feature. Osbaldeston charts the evolution of the invitations, items which are complex signifiers of their time, and which raise issues such as the elitist nature of the art community. What also becomes apparent within his critique is the often conservative and generic design of the cards, which – together with the ICA's shifting corporate identity – bring into question the assumed 'progressive' nature of the institution. Finally, there is a subtle humour present in the week-long exhibition encapsulating and recirculating the images accumulated over 57 years.