Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Human Presence

I listened to some painters talking about why they paint. One distinguished painting as relating directly to the presence of humans, as a record of humans in the world, a non-tech record at that. All media reflects the presence of humans -- it is one draw toward making art or writing or theorizing or ..., in general. But the human touch is less transparent in some media than it generally is in painting. It's less transparent in some approaches to painting that smooth out evidence of touch, such as individual brushstrokes.

I wonder the extent to which works comprised of distinct individual marks to make up the whole object (or object's surface), without representation in mind, can occupy a space that could shift the experience toward one absenting human presence as much as reflecting it.

Yes, a person made the marks. A person articulated the modulations. A computer can be programmed to make hundreds, thousands of non-uniform marks that accumulate into a whole object. What is singularly unique about the human hand? There is an immediate connection between the hand and the mind, without the need for a separate human made construct (program) to mediate the two.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Educate or Illuminate

Is there a difference between art educating verses illuminating? Art can express without doing either intentionally, or at least an artist can seek to express, without intending to educate or illuminate, though either may emanate from the expression.

The semantic difference between educate and illuminate makes illumination feel less canonical. Education as a goal suggests instruction and training, with a concrete goal of imparting specific information directed to a point of view or conclusion. Illumination feels more directed at insight and revelation.

UPDATE: Wow, that was convoluted. Somewhere in there is a point. 9/30/09

Monday, September 21, 2009

Study and the Influence of One Element in Creating the Next Element

I am still working on elements for installing on dark green walls. I have two now.

My identically shaped elements based off the same reference icon or image typically are interchangeable, with minor and likely non-apparent differences inherent in being individually cut. But in this case, since I am building the interior color blocks, the elements differ and will differ in which parts of each will blend into the wall.

Once made, the first element existed, and I chose not to ignore it as I made the second element. Although I visually laid out the second with the first in mind, as I filled in areas with pieces, I moved the second form out of my line of sight to the first, relying on memory of the visual decisions I made to loosen the bias the identity of the first element had on the second.

With the elements created, I will play with different orientations and interactions.

UPDATE: The walls were not nearly the near Hunters green shade they took on in my head: they were a much grayer green, especially under the track lighting. The net result was less fading into the wall than imagined in the making of the pieces but still a demarkation of the dark areas as part of the darker complex of the wall compared to the lighter or brightly hued areas.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Creating work first without a wall and then against a white wall in the studio when the elements will be installed against a dark green wall for exhibition pushes the need to visualize which parts will blend into the wall, becoming less visible, perhaps barely visible, and which will pop out and call attention to themselves as almost independent shapes. Dropping a green background in digitally for studies is useful, though deceptive as edges end up highlighted even on parts that are likely to blend into the real green wall, making the whole shape pop. I should shift around a Color-Aid.

Literal: Handle is or is not Part of Mug?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Part/Whole : Clippings on Mereology

"(1)The handle is part of the mug.
(2)This cap is part of my pen.
(3)The left half is your part of the cake.
(4)The cutlery is part of the tableware.
(5)The contents of this bag is only part of what I bought.
(6)That area is part of the living room.
(7)The outermost points are part of the perimeter.
(8)The first act was the best part of the play."
"(12)The conclusion is part of the argument.
(13)The domain of quantiļ¬cation is part of the model.
(14)The suffix is part of the official file name.
(15)Rationality is part of personhood."

regardless of how one feels about matters of ontology, if ‘part’ stands for the general relation exemplified by (1)-(8) and (12)-(15) above, then it stands for a partial ordering—a reflexive, transitive, antisymmetric relation:
(16)Everything is part of itself.
(17)Any part of any part of a thing is itself part of that thing.
(18)Two distinct things cannot be part of each other."

"As it turns out, virtually every theory put forward in the literature accepts (16)–(18), though it is worth mentioning some misgivings that may, and occasionally have been, raised."

- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Cues, Disturbance and Disruption: Strategy Questions

One might distinguish perceptual experience of the world from controlling actions with in it, and recognize the coordination needed between fingers, hands, upper limb, head and eyes as a person reaches and grasps for an object in the person's sights. In what way can the artist cue or disturb this coordination and to what effect?

One might distinguish appreciation of an object's qualities from appreciation of its spatial location. To what extent does cueing or disrupting one effect the other in laying out drawings. Both are qualities by which one identifies the object, or put the other way, by which the identity of the object is processed and perceived.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I will be doing an installation in a space that has very dark green walls. I had not seen the space for over a year and had forgotten how dark the walls were. I have to consider different visibility strategies that are conceptually consistent with my work. Differences in the installation spaces help the work develop.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Body of Work?

What's the line between cohesiveness that connects a body of work and repetition or sameness in the pieces that comprise the body of work?

The same or very similar drawing or painting or sculpture redone again and again enough -- think Monet's Haystacks. None of the individual haystack paintings is lost in the shuffle, each being enough to hold the wall, the space, and the viewer, while groups of them have their own intriguing dynamic adding a dimension when seen in series.

On the other hand, it can just seem merely repetitive and formulaic, as with a series of paintings I saw this week-end. Each individual painting alone had a lyrical quality internal that was just felt redundant and flat seeing many of them hung together.

Other times, concept ties the work into a body, perhaps involving different media, and cohesion that at first glance feels lacking becomes apparent with continued viewing and consideration.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Simple Figures on Grounds

I was admiring the deceptive simplicity of Craigie Aitchison's paintings and prints -- the strong color blocks and the small, almost naive figures -- and their ability to draw one in even with a small web image. Looking at the figures as shapes and setting aside their representative nature as much as one can -- they won't completely lose their humanness or animal character -- their relationship to the ground took me back to Richard Tuttle colored shapes on white grounds.

As an exercise, I played with placing small figures in colored grounds on Photoshop. No doubt, I should pull out the color pack and engage the exercise physically to better and more nuanced effect. In the set of shapes in the lower corner, I also tried for implication of a weighty sphere without drawing one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pic-A-Day: New Curtain

Enlarged and saturated from Think Draw drawing with animal parts.

Pic-A-Day: Continuation

Further changes to the Interior image: inversed and smudged again.

Pic-A-Day: Continued Diversion

This was a failed Think Draw (animal parts) rendition of one of my favorite Matisse paintings, Interior at Nice, in so many ways, partly because I was working by memory and partly because I just got tired and lazy. It doesn't capture the most intriguing aspect of the painting -- the circular motion moving from the bird's eye view to the frontal view as the room is entered and traversed. I placed the chair, which is the wrong color, in the wrong place and at the wrong angle, and I did a poor (mostly non-existent) job shifting the direction of the floor pattern. Still, I like the strength and shape of the curtains, and the way the vanity table, with the chair entirely too close to it (another fatal flaw), seemed to turn into a person looking back as I enlarged and reduced saturation on photoshop.

Next, I smudged the picture, ending up with pattern and movement:
This rendition is more successful as an image. It's too close in value, with no dark and light complexes, as reflected in the completely de-saturated version. The absence of value differentials is mediated by the presence of the pink and green color complexes.

Pic-A-Day: More Diversion

The initial Think Draw collage was too all over similar for de-saturation to result in an interesting rendition, and I had to add the green, which accounts for the outlining of the shapes. I do, however, like the horse, particular its back hoofs, and the detailing in St. George's clothing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pic-A-Day: Diversion

When I use the Book of Kells as a reference, I generally interpret the animals and coils and knots, and much less so the religious icons. But today I focused on the stylized figures, making more or less a straight copy, within the limitation of the medium, of a detail from the Book of Kells using an online site in which one collages pixels of animals, among other forms -- Think Draw. I copied that image over to photoshop, then enlarged and slightly desaturated it. I like the spreading of the marks that occurred with enlarging the image and the combination of colors that resulted from desaturating the picture; the image looks aged. The Think Draw site is a good diversion.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Vermeer has long been one of my favorite painters. I learned from copying his paintings, using oil paint, charcoal and cut colored paper.

I found this analysis of his technique and careful control of paint, ranging from thin glaze to dense impasto, at the National Gallery of Arts website: using imperceptible brush strokes and finely ground paint to effect, varying from thin to thick as highlights vary from soft to intense, dragging course paint over less less course paint to achieve irregular edges and texture, understanding the optical characteristics of color to infuse coolness or warmth.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Painting vs. Installation

I read a curatorial comment, I forget where, that installations were "easier" than painting. The notion, as I understood, was that the artist does not need to dedicate as much time and effort struggling with and understanding his/her material.

There are things that I cannot yet get paint to do, and I do not have the same "feel" for paint that I have with some other materials and media. So, at first, the comment rings true. Until I step back and think further about whether the statement is really a fair criticism. There are things I cannot get the materials that make up installations to do, either. Paint, in many ways, is more malleable and flexible than materials that sometimes make up an installation. Paint also carries, for better or worse, the power and density of its history. The challenge of understanding the essential qualities of any material and leveraging, pushing or defying those qualities is an impetus for not working specifically or solely with paint.

Working extremely well with paint demands technical know that arranging found objects, for example, may not. However, arrangements of any material, found or otherwise, that work require compositional virtuosity, which comes out of drawing, painting and sculpting. There can be poor, shallow, uninteresting paintings as easily as there can be poor, shallow, uninteresting installations. It's all to easy to create one line work.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Circle Back

Yesterday, a conversation having nothing to do with art reminded of a piece that I made in 2003. Match was a drawing made using graphite and tearing, folding out and securing paper with black acrylic paint.

At the time, I had been experimenting with graphite and folding to loosen my approach, and had been looking at Marca-Relli's Seated Figure at the Art Institute, his smoke drawings, and Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, among others. How much picture space (distinguished from sculptural forms physically extending out from the paper) and sense of movement (distinguished from actual motion) could folded and pressed paper achieve? The variation in edge quality and degree of softness/hardness was essential.

In contrast, uniformly hard edges in my current material present an obstacle to elements finding the the outer boundaries of their objectness. I need to experiment with strategies to soften them, and looking back at the older work gives me some idea of places to start.
Circling back leads me to consider an image that comes from behind to the front of an the image and circle back again, not so concealed yet not too apparent, all relatively flat. Unlike Match, which has no side view, the extent to which a side view can draw and hold interest is a hurdle to realizing the integration of the images into a successful piece, unless I can fully resolve the side view or make it inconsequential to the viewing experience.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Visual Experience

Came across this commentary by Roberta Smith in a 2008 review of an exhibition of work by "emerging" artists. "Emerging" = unrepresented in this context, and she cared for precious little of it.

Although I am not sure I would agree with all of her examples of the pieces she describes as working if I saw the pieces in person, her concrete analysis of what can lead to a less than engaging visual experience was both sweeping and focused -- well worth keeping in mind:
  • "Some non painting efforts come into focus with time, but the first impression is a telling lesson in why painting doesn’t die; it is at the very least a good way for young artists to grasp the kind of density of expression that any art medium requires. (It helps to remember that most of the first generation Conceptualists were educated and began their careers as painters.)"
  • "Perhaps an over familiarity with Conceptual Art and especially the theories it inspired can leave young artists with no sense of how to make an artwork that holds together as an experience. You can sense the lack of connection to either materials or self in their statements, which appear on the wall labels beside the work."
  • "They mix overblown, one-size-fits-all art speak with quite a bit of wishful thinking about their work’s impact, as if they could control the meaning or effect of their work."
  • "Not much else here will slow you down."
  • "Aspiring artists need to expose themselves to the sheer intensity and variety of art, to learn what they love, what they hate and if they are actually artists at all. New York’s galleries and especially its great museums offer ample opportunity for this kind of self-education, which leads to self-knowledge."
  • "Anything is possible when artists set to work knowing they have something they urgently need to say, in a way it hasn’t quite been said before."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Expectation and Dual States

There presently are a number of Richard Tuttle drawings, with poetic names, on display as a grouping in the Prints & Drawing area of the Art Institute. Each is a single colored shape (some more solid, some more feeble than others) that charges the negative white space of the paper. In some, the wrinkling of the paper bends to the presence of the shape. In others, it doesn't. The white space activates the positive shape too, but to a degree -- to my eye -- less so in most of them. The form of the shapes generally are the bit I remember visually, not the shape of the white space. No doubt, the expectation of object connected to the positive shape plays a role in the forms that the brain stores.

There is both truth and deception in the obvious, at once focal point and distraction. Dual states with no emphasis on either state displace the obvious and disrupt expectations.

The Risk of Hardened Concepts.

One pitfall with verbalizing visual art is the risk of hardening the concept while the visuals drift from that concept. I feel some drift from what I have come to think is conceptually important to my work. I am less sure, or perhaps simply less comfortable, about whether my current work really connects to loss and retention of identity through transition and transformation. The elements perhaps don't come close enough to the edge of losing themselves. As I work to push the elements to the edge, I'm pushed back by an affinity for the material qualities of the elements.

So I am spending more time simply drawing on paper ... the solution perhaps is in the distraction.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Impermanence in the "Permanent"

When can solid and permanent looking artwork comprised of structure/materials having permanence capture impermanence? Is it enough that the elements are removable and rearrangeable to conform to different spaces, or for that matter, to different aesthetic tastes, the impermanence being one of context and/or arrangement? Is metaphor sufficient -- a solid form with the shape and appearance of something much less permanent? How much fragility is needed to project vulnerability? How much solid weight is need to project stability?

Charle's Ray's Cypress in the Art Institute is a carved replica of a fiberglass replica of a found fallen tree, carved out of Cypress, eventually bound to decay as the Cypress wood itself, after 400 years of relative stability, decays over a period of 600 years. I would expect a found bit of tree to look more deteriorated and decayed than does the carved cypress. It looks permanent, with impermanence conveyed only in the posted information that it will decay eventually. Distractions from impermanence include the absence of moss and fungi and the singularity of the carving's color. Oil paintings deteriorate and crackle with age, showing impermanent natures more quickly than might this wood carving.

Eva Hesse's Untitled fiberglass and polyester resin over cloth-covered metal wire with metal grommets (variable in installation) manages impermanence in "permanent" form, partly from its form's -- a hanging rope ending in a coil -- the association with temporariness as an image.