Billy Apple

Billy Apple® Six Decades 1962–2018

Hong Kong09 Jun – 28 Jul 2018
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  • Rossi & Rossi is pleased to announce the exhibition Billy Apple® Six Decades 1962–2018, taking place from 9 June to 28 July in Hong Kong. Regarded as a pivotal artist in the British and New York pop and conceptual art movements of the 1960s and ’70s, Billy Apple’s examination and promotion of an identity, and his uncompromising and singular means to do so, place him amongst the most idiosyncratic artists of our time. Rossi & Rossi’s presentation tracks his practice over three continents and six decades through seminal works from each period. The artist gave a public talk with Christina Barton, the exhibition’s curator, on 9 June, which was followed by a reception at the gallery.

    Born Barrie Bates in Auckland in 1935, the artist enrolled at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1959. There, he studied graphic design alongside Derek Boshier and David Hockney, taking a transformative trip with the latter to New York City in 1961. Upon graduating, he bleached his hair and changed his name to Billy Apple, reinventing himself as an artistic brand. This act is documented in the photographic self-portrait, Billy Apple Bleaching with Lady Clairol Instant Crème Whip, November 1962 (1962/1997), a defining work in the artist’s oeuvre.

    Also on view is Self-Portrait (Apple Sees Red on Green) (1962/1963), one of the six surviving canvases from the original series of twelve that was shown in Apple’s first solo exhibition, Apple Sees Red: Live Stills, at Gallery One in London in April 1963. The work resembles a publicity shot that is intended to herald a new brand or product. While Apple’s naked neck and shoulders suggest rebirth, the form  and pose of the image reads like a mugshot. It exemplifies Apple’s distinctive manifestation of pop art, which drew on the language of advertising to convey his own rebranding as a way of blurring the distinction between art and life, as well as people and products.

    In 1964, Apple moved to New York, where he produced and exhibited pop-related paintings and objects alongside Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg­, notably in the now-legendary exhibition, American Supermarket. In the ensuing years, Apple pursued new and varied consumer technologies to aid his art production-promotion, exploring the mediums of xerography, as seen in Portrait of the Artist in a Drip-Dry Suit (Purple) (1964), and neon, as in Four Blue Knots for R. D. Laing (1966/2017).

    By 1969, Apple had shifted to a more conceptual and process-oriented practice. To create a venue for his work, he established APPLE, a not-for-profit space at 161 West 23rd Street, which he operated between October 1969 and May 1973. There, Apple embarked on a systematic exploration of his ‘negative condition’ principle. One aspect of the principle involved declaring as ‘art’ a set of cleaning actions more associated with domestic maintenance: sweeping, vacuuming, mopping and washing.  These actions are documented in the exhibition via Four Activities: Sweeping, Vacuuming, Mopping, Washing, 20 March 1971 (1971), a suite of vintage photographs.

    The process of removal was more formally depicted in a set of three works on paper, Self-Elimination Portrait, 27 March, 1974 (1974), which were printed for a major survey of the artist’s work staged at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1974. In this process, the image of Apple ‘dissolves’. The portrait is the third of several the artist has had taken by professional photographers over his career, each adopting the identical format of the full-frontal, head-and-shoulder shot.

    Since the early 1980s, Apple has complemented his installation practice with text-based works that draw attention to the art system and highlight the artist’s social networks. These relationships are represented in the exhibition with works such as Bartered (Untransacted) (1984/2018) and IOU (Untransacted) (1987/2018), as well as Paid: The Artist Has to Live Like Everybody Else (1995/2018), an ongoing series in which the artist invites buyers to pay one of his personal bills. In exchange, they receive the invoice mounted on a printed, framed card.

    By blurring the boundaries between art and artist, art and life, and art and commerce, Apple’s gradual transformation from an individual artist into a brand culminated in 2007, when he registered his name as a trademark. He has worked on a range of projects to create branded products in the eight classes in which his trademark is registered, including an attempt to produce a new commercially viable breed of apple. Developed together with horticulturalists and apple growers, the cultivar is represented in the exhibition by the sculpture, Class 31.Billy Apple®Cultivar (Red) (2007).

    The exhibition concludes with a suite of works resulting from the artist’s collaborations with scientists, comprising elements of a project known as The Immortalisation of Billy Apple® (2009–15). Part of an art-science experiment by biochemist Dr Craig Hilton, Apple’s living somatic cells have been deposited in the American Type Culture Collection in Virginia, in the United States, where they will be kept in perpetuity for the purposes of scientific research.

    Billy Apple®Six Decades 1962–2018 is accompanied by a limited-edition, fully illustrated catalogue, with an introductory essay by Wellington-based art historian Christina Barton.

    Artist Page
      • Billy Apple
        Billy Apple Bleaching with Clairol Instant Crème Whip, November 1962

        1962/1997
        Gelatin silver photograph with silk-screened text
        690 x 800 x 40 mm (framed)
        Photograph by Richard Smith

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      • Billy Apple
        Self-Portrait (Apple Sees Red on Green)

        1962–1963
        Offset photo-lithography on primed linen
        1,020 x 770 mm
        Photographs by Robert Freeman

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      • Billy Apple
        Portrait of the Artist in a Drip-Dry Suit (Red)

        1962
        Xerography on spray-painted linen
        190 x 279 mm
        Photograph by Robert Freeman

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      • Billy Apple
        Portrait of the Artist in a Drip-Dry Suit (Purple)

        1964
        Xerography on spray-painted linen
        190 x 279 mm
        Photograph by Robert Freeman

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      • Billy Apple
        Apple Core (2 minutes, 33 seconds)

        1966
        Xerography on rayon fabric, stretched
        279 x 178 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        Four Blue Knots for R. D. Laing

        1966/2017
        Argon gas, mercury vapour, clear glass tubing and electrical componentry
        Dimensions variable

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      • Billy Apple
        Spot Cleaning (Hong Kong)

        1971/2018
        Framed vintage photocopy of typescript on paper, steel bucket,
        cloth and cleaning product
        From a unique series of twelve
        279 x 216 mm (typescript), dimensions variable

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      • Billy Apple
        Four Activities: Sweeping, Vacuuming, Mopping, Washing, 20 March 1971

        1971
        Four gelatin silver prints, framed
        Each 340 x 415 mm
        photographs by Jerry Vis

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      • Billy Apple
        Self-elimination Portrait, 27 March 1974

        1974
        Offset photo-lithography on unstretched canvas, image progressively removed by applying Erasol® to zinc oxide printer’s plate, three parts
        Each 905 x 910 mm, overall 905 x 2730 mm
        Photograph by Hiro, printed by Roy Crosset, Riyal College of Art, London

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      • Billy Apple
        Art and Life Business Plan

        1985/2018
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        1,000 x 618 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        Bartered (Untransacted)

        1984/2018
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        841 x 594 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        IOU (Untransacted)

        1987/2018
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        841 x 594 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        Paid: The Artist Has to Live Like Everybody Else

        1987
        Auckland City Council Rates, 2002
        Auckland Art Gallery Conservation Services, 2000
        Herbert Fabrication and Engineering, 2003
        Crockers Property, 1999
        Four invoices mounted on A3 card stock with printed text,
        framed
        Each 565 x 420 x 25 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        From a Private Collection

        1991/2018
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        600 x 600 mm

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      • Billy Apple®
        Class 31. Billy Apple® Cultivar (Red)

        2007
        Painted cast polyester cast
        97 x 85 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        A History of the Brand, London, New York, Auckland, www.billyapple.com

        2005–09
        UV-impregnated print and acrylic on primed canvas, four
        parts
        Each 987 x 609 mm

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      • Billy Apple®
        Billy Apple® A Brand Looking for a Product

        2010/2015
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        382 x 618 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        The Immortalisation of Billy Apple®, 2009–15

        Billy Apple Looking at His Immortalised Cells at the School of Biological
        Sciences, University of Auckland, May 2010
        2010
        Framed digital photograph
        408 x 575 mm
        Photograph by Mary Morrison

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      • Billy Apple
        The Immortalisation of Billy Apple® Stage Two, Billy Apple® Cell Line

        2010
        Microscope video of live Billy Apple® somatic cells
        20 minutes, looped
        Videography by Daniel Verdon, School of Biological Sciences,
        University of Auckland

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      • Billy Apple
        I Consent

        2009/2015
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        618 x 1,000 mm

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      • Billy Apple
        The Artist Will Live Forever

        2016
        UV-impregnated ink on primed canvas
        618 x 1,000 mm

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