McCollum has clustered together what appear to be forty monochromatic paintings of various sizes in the dense display style of a nineteenth-century salon. The works are not framed paintings, however, but plaster objects whose black surfaces yield no images or painterly incident. By endowing these cast objects—nearly identical plaster forms with painted perimeters and central "pictures" of uniformly applied black enamel—with the bare-bones characteristics of paintings, McCollum confounds viewers' expectations, heightening their awareness of how they recognize and act toward art.
To produce this work, McCollum and his assistants engaged in repetitive and communal labor. To a degree, he transformed the artist's studio into an assembly line and a workshop and systematized the artistic process into stages of production: create molds, cast plaster, apply enamel paint. Although the panels were all executed in this way, no two panels share the same dimensions and frame color. Handmade but standardized, Collection of Forty Plaster Surrogates integrates art and mass production. McCollum asks viewers to rethink conventional distinctions between types of labor and to take into consideration the human effort embedded in all objects, artistic and otherwise.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 56