So, I've been working on a number of paintings simultaneously. I find it helps keep the flow going. Once I hit a rough patch, I can keep looking at the painting while I work on another. Especailly in the midst of a grad program, I can't really afford to simply wait for inspiration to stike- FORWARD ALWAYS!
I saw a Per Kirkeby exhibition at Bowdoin College and that, in addition to my previous mentor saying that I should push the grays even further and make it a "thing", led me to experiment with way more monochromatic work.
A lot of false starts this semester, but I'm happy with the new atmosphere that's emerging in some of the pieces...
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
In critiques, there were a fair number of conflicting ideas, most of which had to do with the direction I should pursue in my work. As I have been grappling with narrowing my scope, I brought this up in all the critiques I participated in and solicited feedback. Overall, the majority of faculty opinion was favorable toward pursuing the narrative, fantastic landscapes, though some faculty members thought I should abandon overt figuration and landscape elements and simply suggest landscape elements in abstractions. Others maintained that I was approaching a cohesive body of work; that it was gravitating towards the intersection between visionary and fantastic and responsiveness to the landscape but that I needed to be more believable in both areas. Some called into question whether I should be painting at all, as the world has moved on from painting and if I wanted to be involved in the discourse of the contemporary art world, I should utilize another medium.
An overarching theme emerged from the critiques- it was said many times that I should experiment with varying my mark and level of finish within the piece. I appear to have developed a method that I can employ at will to make pleasing paintings, but that I need to be less comfortable, less sure in my ability to successfully execute a finished painting. It was said that I should push the emotional aspects of the work further and make the paint-handling jibe with the subject of the piece to give it more emotional resonance.
It was recommended that I check out artists from widely varying times and places. But generally, they are all landscape painters, or their work has elements of landscape in them. I was directed to the work of Robert Bechtel, who, it was said, possessed an ability to render very specific types of light. It was suggested I check out Charles Burchfield and examine what made the visionary aspects of his work believable to the viewer. John Martin was suggested, as his landscapes were grandiose in the extreme. Lopez Garcia’s landscapes were recommended; as they show a struggle to perceive the landscape that takes many risks and sometimes don’t work out- virtuosity can only take you so far. Stanley Spencer’s landscapes were recommended as well. Alice Neel was suggested, as her work transcends the straight portrait and becomes a psychological portrait; less rooted in verisimilitude and getting after more of an emotional resonance. I was also instructed to investigate late 14th and early 15th century renaissance backgrounds for a simplification of landscape that looks less like the Group of Seven.
Posted by Nathaniel at 10:37 AM
Friday, January 18, 2013
Back from residency seminar. 10 straight days of critiques and theory. I have a a lot of good ideas as to the direction my work should go, and am excited to get those ideas down on canvas. All that cogitatin' really gives me a desire to get back in the studio and get some painting done. I'm still processing much of what I was told re: my work and what we discussed in class. A summary of my time at the residency should be forthcoming.
In the meantime, I figured it would be best to start throwing some paint around- one of the overarching themes in the critiques of my work was that I should explore a more varied/emotionally resonant mark. So for these first few, I just let 'er rip. I will be starting a larger, more cohesive painting within the week, but I felt that jumping right in to smaller (18x24) paintings would lower the stakes and get the ball rolling...
Obviously, they are all in the very beginning stages, though I plan to let more of the underpainting (and possibly raw canvas) show through til the end- giving the viewer more of a window into the process- this is especially important in the narrative/allegorical works (one of which I will be starting within the week). As I thought more about my allegorical paintings, how they start as non-objective compositions, and then gradually take on narrative elements and, by extension, a larger meaning- having both areas of focus and areas of underdeveloped canvas could add an interesting wrinkle. People are wired to seek meaning in symbols and patterns. I am attempting to ensure that these narrative works mirror that search in both theme and execution.
Posted by Nathaniel at 1:24 PM
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Still, it's got potential...
Posted by Nathaniel at 10:13 AM
Saturday, September 01, 2012
I was experimenting with making a purely non-objective painting and trying to keep it as flat as possible. Usually, my compositions start out this way and inevitably evolve into landscapes. In my critiques, it was mentioned that I was "seduced by form and space". I don't really see it that way, but I figured it'd be an avenue to explore.
I'm torn between focusing on one theme/avenue of expression and trying out everything. Trying to figure out the ONE are that interests me the most has a paralytic effect on me. I think that as I crank out more and more work, that one direction will make itself apparent.
Posted by Nathaniel at 9:48 AM
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
So, I've been doing a fair number of landscapes en plein aire this season, but I've been looking at a lot of Samuel Palmer and (to a lesser extent) Charles Burchfield and have been thinking about ways to open up my landscapes a little. I've stretched up a few largish canvases and traced the proportions onto smaller paper in order to do sketches in the field, then tackle the painting in the studio. I'm thinking this will free them up substantially. However, this is a new process for me, so who knows...
These are a few drawings I did in preparation for a larger work. I'm going to go out again, hopefully come up with 4 or so drawings that I'm reasonably happy with, and work from those. I think drawing smaller will make the final composition chunkier. We shall see.
Posted by Nathaniel at 6:42 PM
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Robert Hughes died on Monday. I attached a piece he wrote for Time magazine for the Whitney Biennial in 1993- it is a piece of art criticism that's always stuck with me. The man surely left his mark...
I would have linked to the Time version, as it has pictures, but it's behind a paywall.
A Fiesta of Whining
By ROBERT HUGHES
It is an axiom that next to running the National Endowment for the Arts, curating the Whitney Biennial is the worst job in American culture. Every two years, the dread summons to represent the most vital and interesting currents in American art looms before the museum. Its curators do their stuff, and the result is nearly always the same: abuse from the art world and the fanged calumny of critics. "Every time I award a state commission," some 19th century French Minister of Culture was heard to sigh, "I create one ingrate and 20 malcontents."
During the 1980s, the Whitney was content to take dictation from dealers and collectors, so that its Biennials tended passively to reflect the fashions of the art market without showing more than an occasional glimmer of independent judgment. The 1993 version is different and scaled to a chastened art world. The sour taste of the collapsed '80s star system has galvanized the "new" Whitney, under its new director David A. Ross, into a veritable transport of social concern. This Biennial, assembled by a team of curators under the supervision of Elisabeth Sussman, is not a survey but a theme show. A saturnalia of political correctness, a long-winded immersion course in marginality -- the only cultural condition, as far as its reborn curators are concerned, that matters in the '90s. The aesthetic quality (that repressive, icky word again!) is for the most part feeble. The level of grievance and moral rhetoric, however, is stridently high.
Instead of the Artist as Star, we have the Artist as Victim, or as Victim's Representative. The key to the show, the skeptic might say, is its inclusion of the tape of the police bashing of Rodney King taken by George Holliday, a plumbing-parts salesman not known for his artistic aspirations before or since. The '93 Biennial is anxious to present all its artists as witnesses, just like Holliday. Witnesses to what? To their own feelings of exclusion and marginalization. To a world made bad for blacks, Latinos, gays, lesbians and women in general. It's one big fiesta of whining agitprop, in the midst of which a few genuine works of art and some sharp utterances (mainly in video) manage to survive.
The bulk of the show is video, photography, installations, a few sculptures and words on the wall. It contains enough useless, boring mock documentation to fill a small library. There are only eight painters out of 81 artists (Holliday brings the count to 82). But that's because it's more or less given that painting is a form of white male domination, implying "mastery." Indeed, the catalog presents quite a riff on this subject when it reflects on what might strike the unprepared visitor as the wretched pictorial ineptitude of such artists as Sue Williams, Raymond Pettibon, Mike Kelley and Karen Kilimnik. (Williams can't draw at all, although her installation The Sweet and Pungent Smell of Success includes a dandy splotch of plastic vomit.) Their work, says the catalog, "deliberately renounces success and power in favor of the degraded and dysfunctional, transforming deficiencies into something positive in true Warholian fashion." Presumably if they weren't vigilant with themselves, they might turn into teensy Titians, engorged with mastery.
No sodden cant, no cliche of therapeutic culture goes unused. If we are at the point where any attempt at aesthetic discrimination can be read as blaming the victim, is there any use in choosing anything over anything else -- or in holding a Biennial at all?
Much of the art on view conforms to the recipe for postmodernist political utterance set out, with lapidary accuracy, by the art critic Adam Gopnik a couple of years ago. That is, you take an obvious proposition that few would disagree with -- "Racism is wrong" or "One should not persecute gays" -- and encode it so obliquely that by the time the viewer has figured it out, he or she feels, as the saying goes, included in the discourse.
An example is the collaborative piece by Hillary Leone and Jennifer Macdonald, which fills a whole room. It consists of a few canvases (actually bed frames covered with muslin) adorned with elegant arabesques burned into them with hot irons. The branding irons, 55 of them, hang from the ceiling. The squiggles they produce, one learns from the wall label, are in fact Gregg shorthand symbols, by which means the artists have filled the canvas with replications of multiple-choice answers from a survey on sexual behavior -- "More than once a week. Once a week. Two-three times a month . . ." Rarely has such a prolonged setup been followed by such a dim punch line.
Some work, but not much, gets above this level. Kiki Smith's sculpture Mother -- a pair of ghostly, transparent feet, before which lie scattered dozens of glass drops, large and small, which might be tears or babies -- has an unforced and melancholy poetry. Charles Ray specializes in weird dislocations of scale; his 45-ft.-long red toy fire truck parked outside the museum is an arresting street presence, while his naked nuclear family inside -- father, mother, daughter and son, all exactly the same size -- is distinctly spooky in a way that derives from Magritte. Byron Kim's Belly Paintings, 1992, representing six different hues of skin, each a gracefully swollen sac of solid color, are beautiful metaphors of the human body.
The found-object assemblages by the Cherokee artist Jimmie Durham -- parodic weapons made out of rusty gun parts, salvaged wood, plastic pipe -- deal with race and cultural resistance, but do so by imaginative, not merely rhetorical, means. Even Janine Antoni's sculptures -- a big cube of chocolate gnawed by the artist and a fairly repulsive mound of lard chewed up by her, flanked by a vitrine or mock reliquary displaying chocolate cases and lipsticks made from the residue of both (link between bulimia and beauty cult, get it?) -- have a sort of Monty Pythonish looniness that makes them almost endearing as traces of obsessive effort.
Of course this show isn't the end of civilization as we know it, but it's glum, preachy, sophomoric and aesthetically aimless. Indifferent to pleasure, it becomes college-level art for college-level thinking about civic virtue. Part of the trouble is that the Whitney, like a swimmer clutching a spar, still clings to the romantic avant-garde idea that visual artists get to sense things before anyone else, that they are uniquely equipped with social antennae that tell us what's wrong with the world before other folk can cotton on to it. Apart from a small number of gifted exceptions, all dead, there is very little evidence for this piety. What supports it? Picasso's Stalinism? Josef Beuys' mystagogic vaporings? Certainly nothing in this Biennial, whose political messages contribute nothing fresh, and little of intelligence, to America's quarrels and complaints about gender, race and marginality.
The catalog confirms the academic bent of the show, with essays of such jargon-filled obscurantism that they go beyond parody. Thus Avital Ronell: "What impresses itself upon us is the fact of finitude's excessive nature, not only because of the inappropriability of its meaning but, as the experience of sheer exposition, because of the way it refuses to disclose itself fully." One would bet $5 that neither David Ross nor anyone else connected with the Biennial could say what such gibberish might mean or translate it into clear English. But that would be a hegemonic transgression on the integrity of marginal language, right?
Posted by Nathaniel at 7:28 PM
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Posted by Nathaniel at 4:02 PM
Friday, July 20, 2012
Posted by Nathaniel at 6:29 PM
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
I didn't get much further than what you see in the photo. My plan is to bring it back to the studio and finish it there. I could schlep it out again, but I've been playing around with the idea of schemas (and looking at a lot of Charles Burchfield, as was recommended to me by many people at AIB). I think that being out in the field initially will give it the sense of place that only being there can provide, but working on it in the studio will free me up to take it in new directions.
Posted by Nathaniel at 2:24 PM
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Also, I just finished Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual In Art, which, while hilariously overblown, was pretty decent. I think he unnecessarily downplays materialism, but it was in keeping with his work. As a defense of his paintings, the book is great.
Posted by Nathaniel at 4:15 PM