Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Pick: Raoul De Keyser and an Article

Raoul de Keyser(1930-2012) has been on my mind a bit this week.  He was brought to my attention and it was at just the right time it seems.  I have been thinking a lot about what it means for a painting or drawing to be finished.  I am constantly seeing my students overwork their drawings so that every part becomes of the same importance and there is no emphasis, no meaning.  We discuss this idea of excess but it is a hard one to grasp at first.  De Keyser is the master at doing so much with so little. With two lines I can tell as the viewer exactly where I am in relationship to the space and the sense of depth.  

He rides perfectly between pure formal abstraction and image-based representation (he said some of his work was based on the lines of a soccerfield near his home in Belgium).  I always put his work in line with Diebenkorn's ocean park series (based on the windows in his studio) or Ellsworth Kelly's forms (based on shapes from the exterior world) rather than someone like Barnett Newman.

And then I read this great article yesterday by Eleanor Ray about these sentiments.  Using Morandi and Guston as examples, she discusses the fragile relationship between a painting's abstract life and its representation.  Referring to Morandi she writes: 

"He brings painting to the edge of representation, painting objects so simple that they are nearly reduced to shapes and lines, but never are. He locates the power of a line in the tension between its simplicity as a mark and its existence as something else  the space between two boxes or fingers. We can’t see a line or a shape in his still life as merely what it is because we can’t separate it from its participation in the painting’s representation."

 I think this statement and the rest of the article (which is really worth reading in full) also applies to de Keyser and is quietly echoing around contemporary painters' work as a very interesting place to explore.  

Note: I am sorry not to have more context on the paintings listed above, it was very hard to track down their dates and titles etc.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rothenberg Drawing

Susan Rothenberg, 1990, Mezzo Fist #2, Mezzotint on Paper

Look at this drawing by Susan Rothenberg.  I have never seen it before tonight and it nearly brought me to tears.  I think it is so moving.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Pick: Evan Fugazzi

Evan Fugazzi is a fantastic painter and friend.  I think of his paintings as possessing something of a ying and yang -- they are serious while playful, abstracted while representational, architectural while atmospheric.  But they are really good, no counterbalance to that adjective.  But we have discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of paintings of ours, others and the painting life in general over the last four years.  

Evan did his M.F.A. at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and resided and worked in Philadelphia afterwards, so we had been able to maintain a dialogue pretty easily.  This semester he was awarded with a residency at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches and works in the studio provided (above).  

I have been dying to see the work he is making which is part of his upcoming solo show, Adjust Accordingly, at Gross McCleaf opening December 6th.  I had some questions for him about the work and his experience with the residency and thought it would be a great accompaniment to the work to provide a bit of an interview.  I am so looking forward to seeing his show (the works in person are so rich) and having his presence back in Philly again.  Take a look below at the paintings and his insightful words on the studio process below: 

A Mild Fear of Dying, 2013, Oil on Linen, 48 x 40 inches 

Birthmarks, 2013, Oil on Linen, 8 x 10 inches

Jumps, 2013, Oil on Linen, 50 x 54 inches 

Runner's Legs, 2013, Oil on Linen, 18 x 20 inches

Turn Me Over, 2013, Oil on Linen, 18 x 20 inches

The Earth Eats, 2013, Oil on Linen, 40 x 48 inches

 Your work has moved from representational to increasingly abstract.  Do you still look to things you see in the world for inspiration?  Or is it more of a formal process happening on the canvas?  
I think I can describe two lines of exploration but they are blurred and I’m sure there are more conflicting impulses to be found. I am exploring having a raised awareness of the abstraction inherent in making works and am engaging it more directly. Simultaneously, maybe at my work’s detriment, I don’t know, I have explored what I make when open to pulling from intuition, memory, evocation, and unfolding discovered relationships.

 Do you want or care if viewers recognize imagery in the work?
I think finding meaning is a sign of our humanity. I think we look for it and find it and that it takes care of itself. I hope my works are rich in the respect that they are opportunities for the viewer to make connections and find their own meaning. I‘m not so worried if they find the same meaning as me. If I am a looking at work that beats me over the head with too obvious of intentions, I stop looking. It starts to slide towards propaganda for me. Some days I wish I could be more clear, direct, or obvious but then I think I’d get bored.

You have recently moved to an artist in residence in South Carolina.  Has the change in scenery/environment/studio affected your work?  And how? 
I have bigger windows and a larger studio. I also sleep and eat in the same room as my work. There’s no getting away from it unless I turn them to the wall or leave. It’s like I suddenly went from having roommates down the hall to sharing my room with 15 people. And so it’s helping me see them differently as they are being made.

I’m also living in a building that moves between audible extremes. Some days it’s absolutely silent so much so that I can hear the building respond to the weather. Creaking, groaning… ghosts in the halls. Heating up metal, moving slowly; things settling. Other times there are wedding receptions downstairs, or a church service early in the morning, or burlesque show where I can feel the bass shake the building. So I feel like I’m now exploring more directly how visually loud or quiet my works can be. Maybe I paint the quiet ones when I want quiet and vice versa. Or the opposite, I haven’t seen a pattern yet.

There are also different colors, plants, people, sounds, and mannerisms all around me.  Everything is both familiar and different, but not completely. I’ve found that useful for my work.

What artists are you looking at most recently?
Since I’m teaching a couple of drawing classes at a university while I’m here, I’ve been looking at drawings with a greater appetite. Diebenkorn, DeKooning, Morandi, Ellsworth Kelly, Francesca Woodman’s photography, and continuing a constant fascination with Kimura.  That’s just a few of them. I try to balance looking at work I enjoy and work I can learn from and works that challenge me. Sometimes I use those works to give myself visual pep talks. Remind myself why I paint. My students’ work is probably the most impactful though.

How do you see your work?  And the next two questions I am asking because I ask myself them recently.  Do you feel your work builds on itself linearly or are there multiple roads it is simultaneously going down?
Maybe some day I’ll be able to answer this question. I might begin to formulate an answer about the work I was doing 3 years ago, but only just now. It’s still very close and I’m just now starting to see it with any semblance of objectivity. My intentions and my expectations cloud that vision. I can tell you what I’m interested in and what fuels the work.  Maybe I can say that they’re like recorded conversations. Some are chitchats at a coffee shop and some are those conversations that happen late at night after two people have spent a lot of time together. I think I have varied interests and conflicting desires and they show up in different proportions in different works. I think being surprised by my work is a good thing. I don’t know if I’m making any progress.

How do you think about the notion of revision and when a painting is complete?  Some of your work is very labored over where you must take the painting through many stages.  And some seem much quicker.  I think many times a painter's process is one or the other mode, how do you think about this?
I don’t worry if a painting is complete; I just ask myself if it’s strong enough to survive out there in the world but I don’t know if this is a good question to be asking. They can all be worked on more. I just might not know what to do yet. If I did; then I’d probably do it. Occasionally, I know exactly what needs to happen next but if I am brave I won’t do it. I’ll leave some room for someone else to look and engage the work.

I’m not sure more time spent on a canvas is helpful. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I ask myself if I’m just trying to make the painting different, or intensify what is there. Either is valid to me, but I want to ask myself those questions.

But I like to paint. If I have enough surfaces and if I’m paying some sort of attention then I can let myself have fast paintings and slow paintings and some that just sit.

I just hope they are in a fertile place when I stop working on them.

 How has or has getting ready for the solo show affected what’s happening in your studio or in your head?  
I like accountability and the consequences. I have this time and I have to put something up on the walls. I’m guaranteed it won’t look like I wanted it to look.  I get to ask myself if I’m playing it safe or taking the risks I need to take. But at the same time I remind myself that making work and showing work are two different processes. Different opportunities to make decisions and choices. There are a lot of things in my studio that show very different interests. Sometime I think ‘will they like it?’ and then I don’t know who this “they” is. Will my mom like it? Yeah, most likely. What about everyone else? I don’t know what anyone else would like and I’d rather not spend my time thinking about it. As I’m wrapping up the work, I’m learning what I wished I had known before I made the paintings but that’s how it works for me.

 What else is on your 'painting mind' presently?
I just started making monotypes. We’ll see what that stirs up.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Etsy Artist Love: Shannon Broder

I have been positively lusting after these pillows for months now.  I think they are hilarious!  So many potentially amazing photo-ops with Nugget and her pillow-self interacting.  They are each screenprinted by hand by the talented Shannon Broder.  Her website is here and you can buy the pillows or ornaments (!) at her etsy shop here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Pick: Tomb of the Diver

Love the gestural poses and compositions of these frescoes found at the Tomb of the Diver, Paestum, Southern Italy, circa 470 BC.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Pick: William H Johnson

The graphic and colorful figure paintings of William H Johnson (1901-1970) are a constant source of inspiration for me.  He uses composition, scale and patterning so beautifully.  In fact, my favorite aspect of my wedding invitation(which I handmade and spent about three full days on) was the floral stamp, a dedication to a painting by Johnson.

Johnson spent his childhood in South Carolina, and then moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design in New York.  In 1926 he left for Europe, particularly Scandinavia, for 12 years, which was a very productive artistic time.  He returned to the U.S. with wife and artist Holcha Krake.  After her untimely death, Johnson fell ill and spent the last 23 years of his life in Central Islip State Hospital.  Such a full life, marked by adventure and tragedy, something of that life feels so embedded in his paintings.