David E. Weed: Pushing Buttons


The political power of war (ICBM), the social power to protest (VOTE), and the philosophical power of a celestial being (RELIGION).

Consumer Devices play as interactive signs that are dependent on social and cultural conventions. A bricolage of broadcasted codes and channels, in which the receiver has the option to adjust the meaning simply by flipping a switch in the on or off position. The devices are not binary, but act as semiotic squares, where off is not necessarily off, and on is not necessarily on, i.e., an unlimited semiosis between the author, object, and interpretant.

- David E. Weed

Artist David E. Weed tenders a most playful approach to re-purposing common construction materials, juxtaposing them to themes and ideas of pop culture, current politics, and consumer goods and services to draw new ideas forth. As an example, this includes using new electrical junction boxes, measure, cut, powder coat, and assembling 12 volt parts and accessories to form visually appealing interactive signs and novelties. Prior to engaging with art history, Weed enjoyed drawing, which naturally led him to painting. He eventually added a working light bulb (credit to Dan Flavin) to a panel with paint.

The idea of using paint to create a representational illusion somehow faded, and paint solely became a symbolic tool based on color. The canvas was eventually discarded for the appropriation of common objects found at hardware stores. The lights do practically switch on and off. They don’t alter in color, but the color is symbolic to the work. The antennae are not actually transmitting a signal, but play as if they are. Weed is deeply influenced by the work of Robert Colescott & Chuck Hitner, art professors from the University of Arizona, who taught painting not just in the context of aesthetics, but also that of politics and social context.

Brian Goeltzenleuchter, committee chair and major influence during Weed’s MFA study in San Diego said something that has always resonated with him, “All material has meaning.” Artists such as Marcel Duchamp (ready-made), Dan Flavin (light), Edward Kienholz (objects), Jenny Holzer (text) and Haim Steinbach (new objects) have come to inform his discipline to name but a few. Also, another important influencer of Weed’s would be sociology professor Stu Hadden, whose introduction to Symbolic Interactionism, Qualitative Studies, and related field research, made an impression.

Toys and novelties play an important part of Weed’s work. Manufactured objects that at times are meant to amuse and engage the viewer. VOTE (on/off) for instance invites audiences to participate by flipping switches to turn red and blue lights on and off referencing US political parties. From a semiotics perspective, Weed’s works wrest in irony or the irony of signs and what is taken for natural. For instance, Religion can be seen as natural, but only through time and conventions, whereas, Religion is anything but natural, it is filled with signs, symbols, and iconic creations to construct meaning. He wants his works to be read as signs where the receiver has the option to adjust the meaning – slightly.

Weed’s bible: “The Basics/Semiotics” by Daniel Chandler. Regarding the influence of Tech on culture: if “All material has meaning” (per Goeltzenleuchter, above) and art is inclusive, “Tech” is just another option for an artist to consider. The Tech of the Internet, the availability to search an endless supply of “ready-mades.” It’s not like walking down an alley in 1959 and finding a rusty nail or old screen to attach to an artwork. The Internet has helped him to assemble electrical parts, endless fonts, and html colors —to name a few —to create a bricolage of appropriated signs, parts and pieces, and an entirely new language of his own.

Reina Flynn is an Art History student at UCLA whom interned at CMATO in 2018. She recently completed a Curatorial program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and is currently a Gallery Ambassador at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, California.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Scroll to Top