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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