Monday, June 4, 2007
There's always too much fake mystique in the art world. It has long infected art making, has extended to art administration and continually metastasizes with every arising opportunity to replicate elitism and pretentiousness. Sorry, my attitude shows.
Anyway, I (an artist) curated a few small art exhibits some years back. Did so to exercise control over the context in which my own painting would be seen (a motive that I highly recommend). But since I knew the other artists I had selected as participants and had researched their work, I also had a chance to mold an installation that would (I hoped) reveal the strengths of each one as individuals as well as to design a presentation that made an appealing "ensemble" of the group. I consulted the other artists regarding meaning in their work. I also took some liberties in presenting their works, occasionally adopting ways they might not have chosen themselves. Overall, my impression was that the other artists were pleased with the result -- an important result when strong talents are put together.
Attempting to be true to the work selected ought to be the chief goal -- otherwise you are taking other people's things and attempting to mold their ideas into your own (curator's) image -- an ugly monomania all too common in exhibitions one sees.
In contrast, one hopefully chooses the works for the strengths of the artists' ideas so allowing those ideas to have their full sway only makes sense. Another obvious consideration, largely disregarded today, is to consider the audience one is trying to reach and to put something together for the spectator to enjoy. I personally long for a more humane idea of the exhibition -- something nearer in spirit to what one finds in museums -- whereby real people are welcomed into the process with works that they might actually care about -- as opposed to the "let's shock" idea that descended long ago and made art jaded and BORING. That's my bee and my bonnet. Best wishes. Oh, PS, I'm all for genuine "mystique" in art. But it is very rare and wonderful. The fake is there to fill the void felt in the absence of the real.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Allowing abstraction all its worth, art should not be just abstract without purpose. In giving up the subject with all its resonance, all its meaning, its possibilities for symbolism and connotation, we give up enormous expressive potential. Abstraction needs to heft something true, something of real value, something powerful, needs great beauty or gravitas to compensate adequately for all that it takes away. It takes someone of Diebenkorn's stature to give the non-subject a meaning that can compete with imagery.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
This landscape uses the natural color of the linen as a tone against which the colors of the paint compare or contrast in cool and warm balance. Strokes of paint drag over each other in imitation of the layered textures of the foliage. The trees and shrubs are like actors in a drama, arranged on an outdoor theatre, on a plot of land that opens out like a stage.
Wave Patterns, as the top portion of the fish tryptich, has a light airy painterly character of loosely drawn strokes of color. Individual strokes create the planes of water surface that catch the light of the water in motion. It is the lightness of mood that the spectator is invited to ascend, from murky dark fish knotted in swarming motion, to bright animal energy of the middle panel, to bare lightness of the top most portion. The three paintings together are three states of mind, a transition from light to dark, a ladder of emotion from confusion to clarity.
Koi Swimming, the central component of a vertical triptich, shows the energetic center where fish swim in a dreamy blue water. The Koi are bright colored -- yellow, orange, red, white. They swim in a flowing rush.
Fish Swarming is bottom part of three paintings. Fish press together into a knot amid dark water.
Hung vertically the three units measure 60 x 120 (unframed)
Night Water is one among a large group of paintings the artist has made about aquatic and garden themes. Night is the realm of dreams, and one of the birds has its head leaning upon its back as it sleeps beneath a full moon. Another bird swims in the dark waves. In the center of the picture flowers float in boxes that occupy an emotional and decorative rather than logical space. A transparent grid hovers over one section of the canvas and a decorative flower pattern over another. At the top left a border from an illuminated manuscript enters like a strange, tropical dream plant.
Can a dark lonely painting be beautiful? Neighborhood Girl is in ways a lonely picture: who is this girl who stands frozen on the sidewalk -- who is she and what is she waiting for? The strong pull of the space beside her, through this sidewalk that yanks us into the deep space of the picture, seems to allude to her past and future. A large house just visible above some trees roots her and helps keep her from being drawn backwards into whatever it is that pulls so insistently. Her stance, awkward and hesitant, perhaps echos her thoughts as she balances between stasis and movement.
A severe leafless tree contrasts with the girl who is coatless. It seems to be a first warm day heralding spring rather than the last warmth of autumn. Something in the painting's dark tonality is more bright and hopeful than otherwise.
The near monochrome makes playful use of trace color in this image which has its source in an anonymous black and white photograph from the late 40s or early 1950s. The play of colors in reduction is most noticable around the girl's feet where the colors are allowed to vary in ways that question the relationships between figure and ground. As a consequence the girl appears "cut-out" from her background, adding another element to the psychological dimensions of the story.
The artist enjoys making playful homage to contemporary artists she admires. This painting echos somewhat the coloration of Uraguayan painter Ignatio Iturria whose paintings the artist saw on exhibit in the late 80s.
Me Clutching My Doll was painting using a black and white photograph of the artist as a child three years of age. The child is larger than life-size, standing resolutely in a suburban landscape blurred to the point of abstraction, and she holds her doll protectively. Beneath the scene a decorative strip is patterned with dark colored flowers. This painting like Neighborhood Girl pays homage, in this case to Richard Diebenkorn, the great 20th century Californian.
As with Neighborhood Girl, the colors are inventions of the artist. Warm and cool colors rake across the somewhat abstracted, iconic child's face. She stands near the artist's childhood home: a bright yellow stroke of light leading off to the upper right makes a path to what was the artist's house.