Playing Card-Inspired Paintings: Keith Tyson’s 52 Variables

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Painting the backs of playing cards, Keith Tyson shuffles the deck on human history to form a fresh perspective of the past in 52 Variables, his new exhibition at The Pace Gallery in New York. Drawing from his collection of joker cards from the past two centuries, the British artist realistically rendered 52 different logos, patterns, illustrations, and symbols from the backs of the cards at a larger scale on aluminum panels and encased them in white, round-corned frames to simulate the look of playing cards. Constructing a different kind of game of chance, Tyson mines the historical moments and places signified on the backs of the cards, which randomly came his way through eBay finds and trades with other collectors, to create a new narrative of his life and times.

Displayed at Pace on green-painted walls, which bring to mind the felt tables of casinos and gaming rooms, the paintings wrap around the gallery like cards in play. The catalogue for the show, which reproduces the paintings as a deck of cards with the art on the back and quotes about life and chance by the artist, philosophers, filmmakers, and other creative people on the front, is equally entertaining. TV commentator Andy Rooney, for example, is quoted as saying, “The 50-50-50 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90 percent probability you’ll get it wrong.”

Cleverly conceived, Tyson’s 52 Variables engages viewers in a provocative game that excites both the mind and the eye.

Keith Tyson: 52 Variables is on view at The Pace Gallery in New York through February 5.

Click through below for a gallery of images.

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 48), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 27), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 27), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 17), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 23), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 13), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 16), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 13), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 14), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery

Keith Tyson, 52 Variables (number 30), 2010, mixed media on aluminum, 39-3/8″ x 31-1/8″ (100 cm x 79.1 cm). All images © Keith Tyson, Courtesy The Pace Gallery, Photos courtesy the artist and The Pace Gallery