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Exhibition highlights the art of Xerography

75 years after the first xerographic copy was made, a new exhibition explores the impact of this technology on contemporary art.

Comprising over 125 works by 40 artists and artist groups from 11 countries, it is the largest exhibition ever to be mounted at the Colchester visual arts organisation, firstsite.

Speaking about the exhibition, Darren Cassidy, Managing Director of Xerox UK, said “Xerography has always been about pushing the boundaries of innovation and this exhibition is a visual embodiment of that very idea. It’s astounding to see the inspiration that has been born out of this invention. With 23 new patents awarded every week we’re certain that the next 75 years will lead to as many creative developments as the last 75.”

This major international and historical survey will include early examples of ‘copy art’, ‘mail art’ and conceptual projects that variously employed the first photocopiers in the 1960s and 70s.

The exhibition will encompass photography, sculpture, video and works on paper. Highlights include Mel Bochner’s influential Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed As Art, which was first conceived as an exhibition in 1966.

This will be shown together with works by Barbara T. Smith made in the same year using a hired Xerox 914 and Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #22: Drawing Series III 1 (A & B) (1969), produced months after his project for Seth Siegelaub and Jack Wendler’s legendary ‘Xerox Book’ led him to begin drawing directly on the gallery wall.

The selection of work by contemporary artists includes a series of ‘toner drawings’ by Wolfgang Breuer, and a large-scale mural by Josh Smith that are new works made especially for this exhibition.

A new publication featuring a selection of texts on the subject of xerography and an extended essay by the curator will accompany the exhibition.

On the 22nd of October 1938 in the Astoria district of Queens, New York, Chester Carlson and his assistant Otto Kornei succeeded in making the first photocopy, a xerographic image of the date and their location.

Carlson – a patent attorney whose years of research and somewhat hazardous home experimentation had been inspired by the pain and tedium of copying legal texts – spent the next two decades working with the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio and a Rochester photographic company, Haloid (latterly known as Xerox), to develop the first photocopy machine.

The process that he referred to as 'electrophotography' was renamed 'xerography' from the Greek xeros (dry) and graphia (writing) in 1948. The first commercial, manually operated photocopier, Xerox Model A, was introduced the following year and the Xerox 914, the first fully automated copier, was introduced ten years later in 1959.

The exhibition is open to the public until 10th November 2013.

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