Photo Above taken by Chelsea Boxwell. "Bull,Bully,Bullets,Bullshit" Hand painted medicinal bullets in a Smith and Wesson gun case.
It was my first time presenting at the Artblitz Crit Group last night in LA. The timing was excellent to get a read from people who haven't seen my new work in progress.
I was really surprised that my ritual of hand painting medicinal bullets and catheters did not come across as such. Instead, it was assumed that these things came that way, that they were purchased with red caps and colored tips and that they had not not already been used for their original purposes. (OK, those who are among my invisible culture, who were not part of this group, knew immediately that I had altered the things because, like me, they are familiar.) But my goal is to reach outside my own circle and despite my compulsiveness to prep and hand paint each item, no past-purpose was revealed to those who are not familiar. Instead it was erased.
Since I am working with medical supplies that have bodily functions, the question of repulsion came up. "What's wrong with repulsion?" someone asked. A: "Doesn't repulsion turn people away? I want to attract, not repulse." Hmmm...Transforming these objects is meant to speak of the positive sort of transformation that happens when a person is changed by another. Not repulsed.
RITUAL is another take-away I got from last nights ArtblitzLA discussion. There is much ritual behind the objects; The first is in the original usage of the objects; The second is in their preparations for re-use and; The third involves the process for their new configurations where they work (interact?) with other materials.
Someone said, If I use the object for what it is in a different context, it becomes a simile (relating back to its original purpose.) On the other hand, If I use it in a different way it is transformed (In my case- to a formalistic object.) A simile will equal metaphor, poetry and gesture. As I consider this even more today I see no reason why the transformed path (even in formal presentation) couldn't also equal metaphor, poetry and gesture.
I walked away with much to digest after this critique and gained a new awareness that I would not have if not for this discussion.
I'm sweating. Yes, it's hot. Even now after midnight, it's hot and I am not made for desert heat. I'm also not made for the medical arena, but here I am in the middle of both- the desert AND Julius' medical care. I'm light headed and don't breathe well with either environment. My boy is now a young adult and "graduated" from his pediatric trach to an adult trach tonight. When I opened the sterile package with the new trach I felt dizzy. "THAT'S gotta go into my son's neck!" Thankfully, I did not say this out loud. Jules watches intensely during these times. He's so vulnerable and knows it. Caught by surprise, I did say, "Wow, it's big!" (Stay on track here. We are talking medicine not......and size does matter in this case.) Oooops, Julius became anxious and I realized I should not have said that out loud so I attempted to down play my fear for the noticeably larger tube that was about to go into his neck and I said stuff like, "You are a young man now," and "It should make you more comfortable with your breathing," and "it's softer than the Shiley so it should feel better once you get used to it." I was clearly trying to make myself feel better about it as well. As usual, he was onto me and my squeamishness. He knows I was never cut out for this. We both got our bearings.
It occurred to me recently, that if I weren't so light-headed when it comes to bodily cuts, needles, blood and such I would be an amazing brain surgeon. Uh huh. At least with the brain, there would be little blood to manage, right? Seriously tho, besides being fascinated with neurology, I have excellent steadiness, asymmetry balance and can use both my hands together or apart as necessary. (Right hand pulls out old trach, Left hand slips new trach into position. Right hand is non-sterile. Left hand is sterile. Right hand manages trach ties. Left hand removes opterator.) This is why the foreman at General Motors made me a floater on the assembly lines when I was fresh out of high school. I could do all the jobs without shutting the line down.
Back to the point- we've had our share of nurses who cannot manipulate both hands together or individually very well. Sometimes, you must use only one hand if the other hand has another job. Sometimes, you must use your non-dominant hand to do fine motor skill. From my experience, men more often have a difficult time with this than women. Sorry, but it's just plain true. Every male nurse we've had simply lacked fine motor skill with their non-dominant hands. And every male nurse we've had could only do one thing at a time. (Bite my tongue.) Julius often requires both trach suction and oral suction together- It's dreadful to watch someone who cannot manage these overlapping tasks. So there I am, demonstrating, yet again, how to manage both without wasting the catheter or cross contaminating the suction tips. I'm not as patient as I was once. NOPE. I was definitely not cut out for the medical field, but when you love someone- REALLY love someone- you do what it takes. You stretch your awareness and ability. You bite your tongue when necessary. And you know, without hesitation, that that person would do the same for you because honest love is cyclical. Anybody who is fortunate enough to get this level of the L word, in whatever form it takes, understands that it's not so far-fetched to feel like you could be a brain surgeon......or an important artist.......
It's calm now and I'm alone and I like it. There is a breeze coming through the house. Both kids are asleep. A few more suction catheters to paint in the studio before I go to bed. 10mm to the tip. Hang them to dry. The medical is art and that is how it settles best for me, whether or not anyone ever sees this as important.
On the day I visited the collection of Emily Davis Adams’ paintings at CB1 Gallery, fierce rain and thunderstorms were slicing through Los Angeles. The sky, its reflection in glass and metal, and the city’s blacktops, were gray-washed in a haze that diffused light and color. Chilled and dripping, I found my way down the long corridor into the gallery where Adam’s paintings waited safely for whomever would come out of the flooded, wind whipped streets, to notice them. Except for the gallery rep, I was alone. Strange. Since David Pagel and his class were expected to meet here. I didn’t mind having the entire space to myself. And the friendly rep, surprised by my visit due to the weather, commented on my determination. I laughed politely and replaced the chill in my bones with the delusion that everything there was meant for me.
Incandescent domes hallowed each painting, illuminating the pieces like miniature theaters in surround. Their reductive color could have been scooped up and saved from outside before the storm smudged everything there. At first glance, the oils on canvas over panel appeared to me to ride the coat tails of chromatic abstraction but on a much smaller scale. They were minimal, soft-edged and possibly something seen before.
“Pay attention” I told myself and stepped in closer. Adam’s hues are not flat, but shift illusionistically with subtle tints and shades of themselves. With closer observation I see a ripple, a dimple, a fold unfolded and it’s understood that these are not abstractions from the Greenberg sense of modern art, but observations in light and color; Light and color- which are really one in the same, saturating our environment. If only we notice, even when drowned on days like this or upstaged by concrete cities. Adams’ paintings are realism in the raw sense when vision in itself is fascinating. I know this sort of concentration when an artist stops thinking and moves into a realm of reaction to seeing. When this happens, what one sees is intensified. More is there than what we previously noticed. Mostly, we tend to stomp through life not seeing much of anything.
Reproductions do not do the work justice. One must see, first hand, how Adams lets go of the noise, edits the unnecessary and pays attention to what is here for our indulgences if only we pay attention. These are not landscapes as their horizontal configurations would suggest, leading on-lookers into that compartment. Adams’ process to make these layouts is to use construction papers as her models, posed under controlled bulbs in her Brooklyn studio. This contradicts plein air landscape study where artists work on-site from observation. These are not that kind of observation. Adams’ method reminded me more of a Baroque practice where artists set up fabricated small landscapes within their studios for study. Viewers are fooled by the broccoli and cauliflower trees, believing the pictures are observations in exterior nature. Something similar has happened with Adams’ paintings but we do not see the stylized representation of trees or grasses. Instead, we see the illusion of a paper crease, not a landscape. I am in the fabricated blur that Adams has staged for me. And I am onto her, but that does not disappoint me like the reveal behind a magician’s trick. Instead, the awareness reminds me to keep my senses honed. What we see may not be what we think we see.
Adams’ has me thinking of color: translucent crimson, ceruleum blue….My heart-rate slows.
Later, I came to consider how linkages among people reside in the refractions that make up our world. While social practices and political correctness ride their waves in and out of cultural exchanges, our differences (political, social, ethnic, gender, sexual, generational, physical and so on) are secondary to our shared dependency on light and color- whether we notice or not. This makes painting indefinitely significant.
And then, my meditation was interrupted when time slapped my forehead. How many minutes had passed? I checked the clock on my cell phone. David and his students were still absent. I sent a text to a classmate and learned that the schedule shifted. I didn’t get the e-mail update since I audited the class unofficially. I’d have to catch up to the group or miss discussion. Still, I liked not sharing the space and took another unobstructed glance through the gallery before scooping up my soggy umbrella and hurrying down the hall to the front of the building. I paused on the cool door handle, took in a deep breath of the warm interior air, held it momentarily and then pushed into the thick, wet wind outside. Slosh and sharp updrafts dulled my sight again, returning everything to black, white and gray.
By now a lot of people have heard of Ron Mueck's hyper-realistic sculptures in non-realistic scales. Fascinating in a word. So this set me to wondering what else is coming from Australian artists. Well they've got some painters that could teach a thing or two- Move aside Greek/Roman art history. Sally Gabori's work stems from indigenous Aboriginal art but not in any traditional way. Hyper YUMMY!
I enjoyed seeing the second year student show at CGU. It's remarkable how far the work evolves in just a year with focused study and lots of dialog. I had good discussions with several of the artists. One in particular who is from China had an installation that brought his work full circle from the very first installation he did when I was up there. Using common objects, he is able to cause an effect that changes the way people relate to objects of consumerism. His conversation overlaps with art historical reference and also touches on global relations between America and China. He asked me if I watched the first Presidential Debate. The embarrassment was clear on my face. He was really concerned, NOT for my embarrassment (HA!) but for the criticism surrounding American businesses having contractual work with China. Attention should be placed, he felt, on positive relations that benefit both countries. I thought he should do a piece that reflects this concern.
We are, in fact, a global world now. Technology has dissolved boundaries in many capacities and yet we continue to hold on to old-school thoughts about internal and external relations. Collaboration can be a means by which all humanity advances. When people's skill-sets become obsolete we need to re-evaluate our educational system. This does not mean everyone should go to college. The fact is that not everyone is college material. Ouch. It does mean that trade schools and alternative training centers need face-lifts and those who take the alternative school path need equal respect for their much needed skills, as part of the necessary infrastructure that makes an economy function well. If outsourcing jobs leave Americans out of work then we need to reconfigure our own field so that productivity shifts to areas right here that do need attention. When the numbers are crunched, bringing out-sourced jobs back to America may not be the best answer. I know- double ouch. But consider this: re-directing our own citizens into areas of work that do need attention will advance us all. Look around. There is much work right here that needs to be done. No one should be sitting idle while collecting unemployment or welfare. There is no value in that for anyone. An exchange needs to happen. For example, paying back through community work that builds neighborhoods and relations from the inside out in exchange for that unemployment check builds us up right here. When people are invested, change happens and it happens from the inside out.
It was brought to my attention that my submitted single page Thesis Statement for CGU is NOT my final version. To those who have downloaded the document, please accept my apologies. The issue is being fixed.
If I curated a show of artwork by Robert Irwin, Yayoi Kusama and Maxwell Hendler I would call it Excessive Impulses of Visual Perception or Neurotic Meditations on Light and Space. The all-consuming compulsiveness of these three links them. And if I wanted you to consider the immersive results from their obsessive processes I would talk about the sensory affects of light and pattern. I would talk about edges, optics and notions of infinity.
When a wavelength of light is within the visible perception, individual hues are seen. Since our bodies require color (light) to be healthy it is no wonder the attraction is so strong. More people are diagnosed with depression that live in areas of less natural light than those who live in sunny regions. Ancient Egyptians used color to treat and heal the body by fracturing sunlight through portals in walls. When we are deprived a full spectrum, the cones in our eyes will reflect color this is not in front of our eyes, but within our brains as a way to balance the inadequacy. (I provide an example of this when I discuss Kusama’s work below.) Ultimately, these three artists offer up drinks for which we innately thirst.
Of course, they don’t do this in the same way. Start with Robert Irwin- His most recent work uses varying temperatures of florescent bulbs, dressed in color gels that play off one another and respond when a person’s movement alters the light in a room. For Irwin, light is both his medium and his object. In his installation titled Excurses: Homage to the Square3 at Dia:Beacon in Upstate New York (through May 2017), the light from his florescent tubes is diffused through scrims, like tempting ghosts. We find ourselves wanting to seek out, get closer, and taste the hum they shoot into our retinas. We wander through his meticulously made, translucent rooms passing silhouettes of other bodies also moving through the haze.
At first blush, Yayoi Kusama’s works appear busier with their obsessive patterns than Irwin’s, but in fact, the shape of a circle as it is repeated and minimized to polka-dots cancels out exterior shape. Step into Universal Order (Installation Centre Pompidou, Paris) and you’ll see a simplification through camouflaged edges so the overall space is reduced to a singular form. Within that form, the optics of each dot plays with our eyes causing visible vibrations. Blink and move your gaze to a blank area or keep your eyes closed and you will see the illusion of green, the compliment to Kusama’s most dominant palette of red on white. This is a phenomenon that occurs within our physiology as our bodies thirst for color balance.
With Irwin we are immersed in light and like a feather brushing across our skin, our senses are heightened. An awareness of self intensifies in relation to the illuminated change in surroundings. With Kusama we are immersed in pattern and “obliterated” through an “absoluteness of space”- words that Kusama has used to describe her work. In her Infinity Mirror Room, (Tate Modern, London 2012) we are reduced to becoming the particles from which her dots emerged. We are reduced, through infinite repetition, to nothingness.
“Nothing” is how some have interpreted Irwin’s rooms, as in having seen or experienced “nothing” when stepping into one of his extremely minimal site-conditioned installations because they simply didn’t slow down enough to pay attention. But for Irwin who studies the nuances of perception, “nothing” is everything. For Kusama, however, everything is nothing.
From here I look to the previous fifteen years of Maxwell Hendler’s two-dimensional panels of translucent color. His laborious process of sanding, buffing and polishing their resin surfaces to perfection provide a means by which light waves can penetrate, bounce around infinitely and splash into our faces in lapping waves of seduction. The assault is soft and mesmerizing and I feel I can stay for a long time, immersed in translucent color where sound is reduced to a gentle buzz. The elixir is everything I want.
How “nothingness” relates to Hendler is in how each resin painting is reduced to nothing but an isolated section of a whole color spectrum that is seemingly outside our typical perception- nothing but a single, saturated hue that could have plucked from the sun. And there in that isolation is where the perception of anything lies.
When Anne Truitt died in 2004 at 83 years of age, she left a thoughtful legacy through her visual artwork and writings. Her meticulously painted sculptures and three published memoirs reflect her sensitivity to life: Her desire to preserve it, its precariousness and; death: the inevitable.
Her painted, stacked blocks stand 5 to 7 feet high. Their proportions naturally relate with the human body. Truitt said she wasn’t interested in a narrative and couldn’t solve the problem of time. In a documentary by filmmaker Jem Cohen she spoke about time as having the ability to simply go around a sculpture.*
Truitt’s human scaled columns that she felt embodied the possibility to repel time, are, none-the-less, still infused with time. Perceptions that accompany me as a viewer, feed into this. It is as if I said, “Do not think of an elephant.” So of course an elephant comes to mind. Truitt’s color is clean and almost translucent, a result of the conscientious layering involved with her process and I can’t help but think of the involvement of time. Her hand-treated surfaces are slick and polished. The impression is one of human perfection, something we want to reach but is unattainable, except perhaps in flashes of moments that tease. Bands of color fields coat the blocks on which they are painted with a deductive simplification that wrap these monuments horizontally or vertically, an act to protect what is beneath from the ravishes (or problems) of time. For me, the sculptures are an attempt to encase and preserve what is ultimately ephemeral.
This leads me to consider the work of Christo, where he physically wrapped objects with cloth and string, a ritual that references shrouding death and decay. An ending. I am blatantly pushed to consider what might be beneath the wrapping and conscious of this consideration. With Truitt such a reflection is more visceral. In monumental scale, Christo’s wrappings establish a sense of dislocation. In the more intimately sized objects, like his wrapped handcarts, I consider the breakdown of my own body due of the shared size relation and skewed or partial recognition of the object underneath. Where Truitt speaks of preserving timeless perfection, Christo speaks of that perfection having an ending.
The work of Jasper Johns combines Truitt’s columns and Christo’s wrapped configurations. It is through the process of layering wax, a time consuming application, that the encaustic surfaces of his paintings also reference the duration of time. Reading death into his Target with Four Faces (1985) is not a long shot (nor a pun intended.) The eyes and chins of the four faces, stacked horizontally, are covered suggesting there is more beneath the surface. Each figure is compartmentalized while the entire contents of the work are boxed in as if to be preserved and saved or buried in wax and casket. All is stopped, as if frozen in time. The iconic target that is not actual but a referential painted sign, becomes an imagined cloak and I can visualize it tucked into the edges, like a blanket, wrapping around the back of what we cannot see.
Robert Morris said that Jasper Johns took the background out of painting and isolated the thing. He went on to say that the wall became the background. This circles me back to Truitt, whose objects (or things) stand or hover in space where the surrounding wall is distant background. But not only the wall, also the human body (me and you), space and all moments of time pulse around Truitt’s sculptures protecting whatever is embodied within.
*Matthew Mark’s Gallery-
Jem Cohen's 20-minute documentary Anne Truitt: Working, which was shown at the Hirschhorn Museum's 2009 survey of Truitt's work, will appear on the DVD of Museum Hours, Cohen's award-winning feature film. Anne Truitt: Working consists of an interview with the artist and 16 mm footage made in and around her studio at Yaddo artist colony, as well as footage from her studio in Washington, D.C. Cohen says, “I was honored to know Anne Truitt, and doubly so when she allowed me to make a short record of her presence and thoughts. I felt as if she opened her hand and showed, in a profound but down-to-earth way, the compass by which she navigated
I spent the afternoon with J at the MOCA and experienced the Mike Kelley show- It would have been a sad thing if we didn't see this show. Forget the Getty (Okay, not really.) While there is no view overlooking the hillsides of LA at the MOCA/Geffen, like there is at the Getty- it's simply NOT necessary! There were moments when I felt as if I knew what it was like to have autism! We walked into one of the installations where the electronics from numerous toys had been removed and isolated from their sources. The little boxes of many different shapes were laid out on remnants of fabric left over from previous cut-outs. The electronic circuit boards were all playing their "toy" sounds at the same time, but there were no toys for reference-only overlapping sounds (a baby cooing, a car zooming, musical notes?- I'm not exactly sure) and there were a couple of chairs, one with a leg wearing a boy's sock- "How appropriate," I thought.
In another space we were like Superman or God (Yes, I know that sounds weird- but that's how it was.) At the same time, we were the opposite- nothing powerful, just body and flesh secondary from a life source but fully dependent upon it. We were meaningless as we looked at ourselves looking at ourselves again and again.
In another exhibit my own childhood memories were triggered- through soft things- stuffed animals and blankets- and I remembered something I had forgotten- Something yellow, made of yarn and a coat hanger. I was very young. I made it with loops and knots. He (Kelley) kept doing that sort of thing: It was all familiar but different.
One of my favorite pieces was a combination work of stage-prop and video- a woman dressed in cliche American farm-girl garb sang her heart out on a miniature set reflecting salt of the earth, American roots. Revealed through the performance was brilliance (I thought) beneath female masked-ignorance. I considered my tractor pics, taken by a 14 year-old-girlfriend in fun, that I ended up blocking on FB because the sarcasm wasn't grasped! (I couldn't accomplish what Kelley had done!)- certainly not on social media!
Yes, Kelley provides lots to digest. I don't know if I will sleep well tonight. My head is racing. It's a shame that Kelley committed suicide a couple of years ago. Having now experienced such a large collection of his pieces- I feel like I can actually see how he had the strength (or weakness?) and COMPULSIVENESS to carry out such an act. The rest of us don't get to see what more he would have done. That's disappointing.
I took my son to the Getty to see the restored Pollock "Mural." I thought you would get a kick out of this-
The Pollock presentation was interesting, but I found it out of place with the other work at the Getty. [Note-This was my first time there.] The educational materials that uncovered how Pollock laid his paint was intriguing. I thought the restriction on photographing the mural was disturbing and have a picture of a security guard coming after Jules and me! After the conservationists revealed that Pollock did not make the painting in one driven night, [as was told] perhaps the curators attempted to restore mysticism through a "no photo-graphs" rule! Preserving the painting's soul? Respect for "religious" object? or could it have something to do with manipulation, style, and money? Photos, without flash of course, are allowed throughout the rest of the Getty- even with regard to works that could be considered more fragile. Hmmm.... I'm sure it was no mistake that the Pollock presentation was installed right behind the GIFT SHOP where reproductions and T-shirts are available for sale! Marketing. Don't ya love it?
I took a a pic [Not attached in this blog post] of my boy with VanGogh (There were no photo-restrictions there!!) Absurd contradiction! Makes me laugh.