Just Do It (or not…I don’t know)

This process is is slowing me down yet slowing down might be a good thing. There is some sort of wisdom in taking one’s time – allowing learning to take place.

Part of the reason I am doing this project relates to the urge to work. I just want to make paintings, but I always need new substrates. I have to wait to work. I have to do carpentry, stretching, gesso, etc. In the past I began painting on cardboard to deal with this issue. I would be able to work – just nail the cardboard to the wall and start painting.

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Etcetera and its Discontents (Air Filtration), 2013, acrylic on cardboard, 72×72″

This current painting is using what I am calling a “stretch/re-stretch,”method of painting. I stretch the canvas as normal, but the stretcher is much smaller than the overall canvas. I then make a painting, un-stretch, then re-stretch to create yet another. For this particular work I am using a 60×216” canvas. I am painting paintings at both ends – vomit and poo reference, burning candles at both ends idioms. Over and over till the paintings meet in the middle. But is slow going. I am have made four painting per side and I don’t know how many more I will need to make. Time is limited in this space, and I may not even like this painting when it is done. I will also need to make a stretcher that is six yards long.

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as yet untitled painting, acrylic on canvas, 60×216″

The thing has to dry. Each painting needs to be pretty wet so as to drip on former and latter paintings – because I am seeing that the thing will eventually need to drip on previous paintings too. So as I work I am painting on previous finished paintings. As if they are never finished – mechanically following the process of designing and re-designing.

It is also an exercise in functional relativism. If each painting could be seen as a world view, then to have them all swimming together would suggest that multiple world views are being squished together. Some might be louder than others and some may be totally silenced. I do not know how to deal with this seemingly dominant contemporary epistemology. How do we justify the power we have? How do we justify our dominance over others? How do we justify our beliefs? How do those beliefs become justified in a crowd? Who profits? Who suffers?

I am also working on multiple paintings besides this work. Works on paper, works on canvas, and yes, a return to cardboard (though the cardboard is unfinished).

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acrylic on canvas, 19×19″

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acrylic on paper, 9×12″

But perhaps slowing down is useful. The painting dries, it drips on the as yet un-painted canvas, and it waits over night. Apparently painting is a thing that can push back against the speed of this contemporary age. The stationary painting isn’t timed based, it doesn’t move – it is at rest and thus the viewer can take a cue from the inanimate object. The viewer can be still. The viewer can plumb the depths of the maker’s smudges. This mark here. That mark there. “What was the maker thinking?” The viewer gets to empathize with the distant human. The human who is not even present. The viewer gets a chance to walk in the maker’s shoes.

These things might be true. But I just want to work. Which might really mean that I think that work makes work or one should, “Just do it.”

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Painting Paintings at Both Ends

I have started a 60×216″ painting wherein the painting drips on itself. The painting is its own drop cloth. The painting was begun at two different ends of the six yards. Each painting is made with the support of a different scale stretcher. For instance, the first painting was made with a 12×9″ stretcher. Then after that was made, I unstretched it and restretched with a 20×16″ stretcher.

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60×216″ painting on canvas

This process was repeated on the other side. I will rinse and repeat till the paintings meet int the middle.

I am also exploring some different attempts at design by creating paintings on paper.

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12×9″ painting on paper

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9×12″ painting on paper

Painting Residency

I am beginning a residency at VisArts in Rockville as the new Bresler Resident. I’ll have a studio till December, then sometime thereafter, I will have a three person show with the two previous Bresler Residents, Mei Mei Chang and Amy Hughes Braden.

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Bresler Resident Studio

I’ll be engaged in several activities including painting, writing, blogging, and office-ing. I’ll be digging into several topics with painting. I’ll continue my stretch/re-stretch method of painting, a collaborative painting project, and I’ll be exploring some design concepts in an attempt to dig new trenches. A frustrating concept I have encountered is the seeming self-organizing systems of design. An organized design scheme seems to want to order itself, to make itself. During this residency I want to try to break up that system and explore iterations of a design.

For several years I have been thinking about how Hamlett Dobbins organizes his painted spaces. He has a wealth of unity and variety and I want to give a nod to this kind of inquiry.

I’ll also use the studio as an office for writing articles for eastcityart.com and working on things for my classes at Northern Virginia Community College wherein I teach Drawing 1 and Fundamentals of Design 1.

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Wet Paintings

I’ve begun working on several new paintings.

Day one begins.

 

Links:

https://www.visartsatrockville.org/more/fleur-and-charles-bresler-residency/

http://meimeichang.tumblr.com

http://amyhughesbraden.com

http://hamlettdobbins.com

 

 

 

Adam Hager at the Arlington Art Center

I recently visited Adam Hager’s Mechanical Resonance at the Arlington Art Center. Hager has taken apart mechanical objects and rebuilt them into objects resembling toys. The base materials come from functional objects like car parts, computers, clocks, a music box, and sewing machines. What is interesting here is taking parts that are used for labor and reapplying them to constructed objects seemingly used for play. 2016-05-04 15.00.47.jpg

The origins of these things are industrial, with symmetry used for specific purposes. Yet that purpose is suborned with whimsy. A kid would want to play with these. Maybe the staff has to keep kids from running off with them. But they aren’t just toys. They are in the art setting. They are toys for art. Toys for collectors. One of them sold, a pink dot (not a red dot). Will the collector play with it? What is the lineage of these objects? From industry, to toy, to art.

There is whimsy in their scale as well. This one is tiny, and under a magnifying glass.

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Hager’s keystone of the show is a car engine with hand crank. Pistons potentially pistoning. All metal and seemingly capable of going right back into a car, right back to its origin. When I visited I was lucky enough to see another object interact with the engine.

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Maybe the bucket has some more mechanical resonance with the engine.

The engine piece is called Tune. Turn the crank and the pistons pump, chiming off tuning forks. Tune the engine, tune the forks, tune the mechanical resonance from efficient to whimsy and back.

See more at

http://adamroberthager.com

and

https://arlingtonartscenter.org

 

 

Nathan Loda at Adah Rose Gallery

I’m not sure how to write about a friend’s work. I’m not even sure what kind of writing I plan to do for this. Would it be a review? Would it be a, “I was there,” bit of writing. How do I write this?

I wrote several drafts then deleted them. I could revive them, but only in spirit. There were a few nice turns of phrases, little naked dances. And quite a lot of personal relativity. I like Nathan. And that liking is leading my key board tapping. Can I divorce my personal feelings from the analysis? What about artists I don’t like? Won’t that personal feeling influence the reading?

So how can this work. What is the issue here? Is it an issue at all?

I’ll ease into this. Nathan’s underpainting. An umber-sienna drawing then paint up on top. The ending not too smooth, not too painterly. Maybe somewhere in between.  Not just layers. He leaves that earthen underpainting to poke through. Like Jenny Saville with her burning cadmium blaring, yet Nathan’s under painting slow burns, pushes its way to the fore.

You can see it nicely in several cases.

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Look close, boiling beneath that top most layer is that earthen light. That umber underpainting.

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So the painting is done yet some areas are just touched. Manet’s thumbs. He lets the furthest point shine through. And so we get some luminosity.

And the scale is small. Intimate so your body has to relate to the thing, close up. And Adah’s gallery is likewise intimate. So a good pairing here.

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And the subject matter does what Nathan does. Is what Nathan is. That conflicted person, conflicted American. Conflicted history. Skate punk down in the holler. A hunter, killing and planting. He speaks Italian and Spanish and maybe more languages. He has traveled.

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The interpretation can be subjective. Maybe that’s how art is good and less authoritarian. Allowing for more voices. The viewer completing the thing through observation and interpretation. Maybe when the painting presents us with many possible interpretations, then perhaps that ambiguity allows for some potential. So perhaps ambiguity is an inclusive gesture. But do these particular depictions include or exclude?

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There is a thought that toys are safe. For the child they are safe; they are content-less. But one wonders if a toy is neutral.

How can a thing be neutral. It was made for a reason. The toys are myth objects, telling us who we think we are, who we want our children to think they are. Maybe parents give their children toys because they are leading their learning. Leading their world views. Like putting a text (any text) in their hands, like letting them touch the hot stove. So to give a child Cowboys and Indians, what might that parent intend? What might a manufacturer intend? Are those toys neutral? What narratives are implanted?

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Nathan Loda’s Histories, Heroes and Small Moments at Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington, MD up through June 5, 2016.

 

http://nathanloda.com

http://www.adahrosegallery.com

 

 

 

 

On Affirmed Knowing

Why would I believe in what I believe in? Why affirm my own values?

Henry Thaggert and I went to the Hirshhorn and saw Robert Irwin’s All the Rules Will Change. We looked and talked. I kept telling him I needed to go home and re-think my life. And I kept saying it was because I was seeing so many affirmations of my own values. Irwin’s work seemed too familiar, like I could have made it. His ideas felt like my own.

I have never seen his work in person. I have never seen the body of work that comprised much of the content of Lawrence Weschler’s book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. The show at the Hirshhorn seems to have been curated by almost copy and pasting directly form the book.

That book made the rounds in American art programs. At least on the east coast. From New York to Boston to Washington D.C., it seems to have made an impact. I know people who read it. I plan to assign it when the proper class presents itself. The book is used in art programs because Weschler’s interrogative writing method chugs along like a steam engine. Pages turn. It reads easily. Chug-a-chuga-a, it ends.

And the content is like a mind being read. Irwin laid bare. From being a dickhead, hot rod douche bag, to a number crunching horse racing gambler, and to being a considerate thinker, that text functions like a film of Irwin’s mind, and the reader has a front row seat.

The book was influential for me because Irwin began looking deeply. He began empathizing with objects, reducing what he needed, and tossing everything else out the window.

There are show spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen it, you might read the rest later. 

The show started with a mid-late object, the disks. A good place to start, a good place to draw the visitors in. This was the first time I had seen one. It actually felt like a let down, because I had only seen it in the text or online. The object had too much canonical sacredness in my mind. It was really just thought, until I had to address looking at the thing in person. I’ve encountered this let down before.

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Next was the hand held paintings, breaking up the passive looking and turning looking into an active thing.

Pick it up, look. Touch. Observe. Multiple senses at work.

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That active looking seemed to resonate with me. The act seemed deeply political. Art becoming a spatial thing. Like a sculpture you must interact with. Asking the viewer to not merely view disrupted the history of merely looking at painting. The painting had to enter into the issues of sculpture, the thing in the round. Further, it was intended to be picked up. To be smelled at close distance, to cover in hand oil, to be interrogated with blood and bones, not just wet distant drippy eyes.

From there the show followed the book to the larger messy line paintings. The mark was still there, the hand, the impasto gloppy gloop mark.

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But Irwin started removing that hand thing and just held onto the line. Pushing variables further and further afield, looking deeply at “one” thing.

Beyond the hand held paintings there were a few dot paintings. I didn’t photograph them. What I didn’t realize is the present opposing grids pushed back against each other creating subtle pattern. In the first one, there was a sort of circle created with opposing horizontal/vertical grid and the diamond shaped grid. The second dot painting’s edges flicked like fire, but barely perceptual. The dots dappled as they neared the edge, creating a sort of heliosphere of solar flares.

But the show went on and Irwin kept removing variables. From the dot to the line. Why have the hand? Why not just the line?

And so next, we saw the line paintings. Depthless yet misty, the painted lines were staples for holding down distances. Slightly raised off the canvas, resonating with the more neutralized neighboring colors; the lines wavered sometimes, glowing yet still sitting quite still. What I hadn’t remembered form the book (or perhaps was not present) was the ground treatment. The ground of these was actually quite “hand-present.” They were painterly painted. Not with big brushes for a real mechanical covering, but many small gestures with a single three-finger scale brush. Scritch scratch coverage, all over. Then the lines. Henry said he thought there was color under the ground; seeping through and pushing the ground around. I saw it sometimes, but wasn’t sure what I was seeing. But the ground was still quite mechanically executed. The smaller brush was used in a single direction, each time. Observe:

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See the mechanical execution of the ground? More examples:

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As an aside, you can see the luminosity and color relationships with this particular close view. Painting under the painting.

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So you can see that the grounds of each one of these paintings is pretty painterly, yet still quite mechanical in execution. That seemed very odd to me. It seemed that Irwin had not tossed out the hand variable. The Line paintings still had that painter painting thing present.

Next we came to the more environmental, large line paintings. We stood there and let the thing overtake us. Wingtip to wingtip it was supposed to envelop. The red, meant to burn the retina, creating fatigue and a real sense of…redness. A red world, a potentially dangerous utopian/dystopian red world. We talked about Rothko with these.

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The book talked about all these things and there were more objects but the scrim needs to be discussed.

We reached an uncanny room, the anticipation for this was building. I knew it was coming. The skrim room, like other Irwin skrim instillations utilized the location’s architecture to create its form. The skrim held back some curving walls. The place was all breath.

The previous variables of line and hand removed. It was all light and fog. It was astounding to see it. It was difficult to look at, because the eye kept wanting to penetrate. Maybe it functioned similarly to Agnes Martin or Chuck Close. Distance and nearness changing the experience contextually. If close, X, if far, Y. But with the skrim, X and Y played together. Becoming a shifty third letter. Essentially an X with a dangling dick.

But the skrim had depth but no depth. It was flat yet deep. It wanted to be touched, because the eye wasn’t sure of what it was seeing. I talked to guards in each section and the guard in this section said he was frustrated by people constantly touching the thing.

The book laid all these things bare. It was like reading the book through seeing the things. And with each seeing I was reminded of my own content, my own inquiry. That book affected me, the ideas pushed me around.

The book was influential for me because I could see a way through some of the complex issues of art and life. I came from a theist background. A small town in Texas wherein the second question anyone asks you is, “What church do you attend?” This was disruptive. It seemed there was only one way to think, anything outside that method was flawed and would produce ostracism. At the age of fifteen I decided to be an atheist and I always felt tense and unwanted. This background made me doubt an affirming a world view. The people around me seemed to affirm each other’s values. One set of values. But I doubted the core premises of those values. It was/is all disruptive to my ability to think.

With this background I came to Weschler’s book and the MFA. The important core concept of Irwin’s work is looking deeply. To look deeply and  remove what is unnecessary. To interrogate an idea to its conclusion and beyond. This approach allows for mistakes and play. Potentially, this approach doesn’t favor any other approach over another. Irwin allows for plural possibilities. And this resonated with me because I grew up with what felt like a singular possibility. One method. One holy text.

But Irwin offered multiple possibilities. The book laid this all bare. The show laid this all bare.

Looking deeply engenders empathy. To accord a thing such weight is a substantial learning opportunity. This situation can enter into life, allow for accordance of weight to another person, to their values, to their world view. To look deeply allows for a willingness to empathize and thusly to treat other things and beings with dignity. This is why Irwin is important to me. This is why that book and the show are meaningful.

As we walked through the show I kept feeling an unease. As I walked through the show, I saw my aesthetic history on display right next to each object. Each object was a bookmark in my thought. To hold the painting, to be active rather than passive, this is the clarion call and exit ramp out of moderinist solipsism. To remove the hand. To only have lines. To reduce to a disk of light and glass. To create an environment of mist. And each work thereafter seemed to resonate with my work. The setting aside of unnecessary variables resonated with my Average Color of One-Hundred Paintings. To squish it all together. Compact paintings, compact mist. Compact history. Compact values.

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The removal of variables resonated with 100 Paintings. 100 potentials. 100 world views. 100 paintings.

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But as I walked through the show, each work showed me that I might have been affirming Irwin’s values. I might have been affirming some values at all. To affirm itself continues to feel dangerous. But of course interrogative thinking requires challenge and affirmation. It seems to function just like painting. Play, make mistakes, learn, fall down the stairs and break every bone. Then rethink the thing and repeat in some way.

But I thought I should go home and re-think my life.

It has been several days since seeing the show. And after writing this I think the issue is really that, no matter what, I am a doubter. I remain skeptical. Weschler’s book isn’t a holy text. It is useful but not any more sacred to me than the dangerous Bible. But I honestly got quite a lot from both sources. From my hometown I learned to be wary yet my home town created me, created the situation wherein I would be willing to analyze my situation. From Irwin I learned to look deeply. Or more precisely, I was allowed to look more deeply. Irwin made me think I could slide art and life together.

http://hirshhorn.si.edu

 

Erasing Forwards

This past year has been difficult. Post grad life has been a whole host of uncertainties. Food and shelter aren’t free.

A History of a Discard Pile and Its Discontents

A History of a Discard Pile and Its Discontents, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

I have stayed away from my digital erasures for several reasons. Maybe they ran their course. Maybe they are conceptually problematic. When I first started making them, I wrote the following statement:

I make hundreds of paintings that involve erasure. Erasure and multiple is important to this analog painting process. I then digitally erase those analog paintings. Erasure is a sign for doubt for me. I test the painting process through analog erasure and digital erasure. It functions like layered multiple double negatives. The process is a continuous attempt at testing the value of convictions and ultimately discerning a valid space between judgments about good and bad. Through this process I test the space between matter and the digital.

If a painting is an object that speaks to presence, the artist’s hand, or silence, then what changes about that presence, hand, and silence when the painting’s vocabulary changes to pixels rather than canvas?

But I also always made them to process data. They are digital erasures. They aren’t erasures of the actual analog paintings. There isn’t a real threat. No danger. The analog object isn’t modified. It is the photo of the thing. That’s why the so called, “Erased Paintings,” are problematic. If a painting is an analog object, a tactile, kinesthetic object, then a photo of it is a mere representation. The photo of a painting is a record. Camera and painting are record keepers. The end photo is there to be put online, or emailed, or digitally transmitted. But perhaps it is not the thing itself. Of course, an artist can declare what they think that “thing itself,” is for themselves.

A Many One Pivot Lie

A Many One Pivot Lie, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

So, maybe digitally erasing a photo is problematic. But for me, this process helps me go back in time. Dig through the history of these things. Dig through what I was thinking about when I made them. Dig through the good and bad of life at that time. As I digitally erase them, I dig back into their making. I remember each mark. It is like a digital archaeology of an analog thing. Brush marks become signatures. Scrapings become physically remembered. I can hear the canvas being touched. I can hear it through my eyes. It’s all kinesthetic empathy (to borrow from Kenny Jones). A kinesthetic empathy of my memory. I empathize with my hands of that time. The erasure is a time machine. But it isn’t a nostalgic gesture. Nostalgia isn’t something I trust.

A Wild Herd of Indifferents Appears

A Wild Herd of Indifferents Appears, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

If At First You Don't Succeed, Kill Yourself

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Kill Yourself, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

The Erased Paintings are an attempt at delving into why or what is good about painting. I make the analog paintings to test their veracity. The digital work is a continuation of this process.

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Ripple Ending, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

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Trainwreck Wreck 01, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

The digital erasure further analyzes the whole idea of the image on a screen. Much of our seeing is mitigated by the screen. We look at them all day. People live their whole lives online. People buy paintings online. People buy paintings by only seeing a jpeg. These are those jpegs.

Trainwreck Wreck 01

Trainwreck Wreck 02, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

Tidy ABCD

Tidy ABCD, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

But these jpegs return to the analog object. These digital erasures return as prints. Cluttered processed photos of that analog thing. Some kind of shadow of a painting.

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Wet Gesture, 2016, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

All my work is a continuum. One thing relates to the other. It’s stacked dominoes. They clatter, fall.

The One Pixel series relates to the Erased Painting series. A single pixel of one of my paintings.

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One Pixel of a Jay Hendrick Painting, 2013, archival inkjet print on fine art photo rag paper

The Erased Paintings relate to the microscope slide.

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Average Color of One-Hundred Paintings, 2015, acrylic on microscope slide in wooden box, 8.5x5x1″

The microscope slide relates to the 100 Paintings.

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100 Paintings, 2015, one-hundred acrylic paintings on a 20×16” stretcher on easel, 74x37x37″

The 100 Paintings relate to all the paintings.

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