Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966–1986 explores the use of the photocopier as a creative tool, from its public emergence in the 1960s to the dawn of the digital era in the 1980s.
Despite the machine’s intended function to reproduce office documents, artists inventively utilized it as a camera and printing press to create original fine art prints. They placed objects on the flatbed, distorted imagery in the process of scanning, and manipulated the exposure, density, and saturation settings to achieve imaginative, often unexpected results.
Far from “copies,” these still lifes, portraits, abstractions, and collages reflected the ingenuity of their makers. Focusing on three artists and one collective—Edward Meneeley, Lesley Schiff, Robert Whitman, and the International Society of Copier Artists—this exhibition investigates how artists found self-expression through a machine designed for replication.