Jonathan Monk’s 24 Dessins Isométriques (Afrique Cubique) creates an unlikely pairing of African wax prints with a selection of Sol Lewitt’s minimalist isometric drawings. The British-born Monk, a successor of 1960s conceptualism, has often explored the dialectic of friction, the humor that might result from the antagonistic relation of forms and of opposites forced into proximity. A wry referential humor courses through Monk’s work, from his stainless steel caricature of Jeff Koons’ balloon bunny (made to appear notably deflated) to his creation of None of the Buildings on Sunset Strip (1997–99) in reaction to Ed Ruscha's famed photographic artist’s book. Considered in this light, 24 Dessins might be seen as an appropriative engagement with traditional forms, an effort to inscribe familiar geometries into an unknown and ornate lexicon of cultural significance. For the creation of this book, Monk painstakingly reproduced 24 of Lewitt’s isometric drawings, two-dimensional renderings of three-dimensional objects selected from a 1982 exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, and silkscreened the Lewitt drawings onto so-called African wax prints. “So-called” because ironic questions of authenticity are raised in Monk’s work, given that many of the fabrics he has chosen are designed and produced by Dutch textile companies for African markets, using Indonesian Batik printing techniques.
Monk’s 24 silkscreen wax prints are mounted on individual sheets and bound together in a traditional book format. A gold and green silkscreened label, typical of the kind accompanying African wax prints, adorns the book’s fabric slipcase.