February 26, 2005

Last Lap


The original idea was to finish painting by Wednesday. We would then complete the week with a visit to Barcelona to scout out the SouthWest quadrant of the old city (Stephanie's new business enterprise is off the ground, more on that later) and then celebrate with dinners with friends to see the paintings and come out of my hermit studio daze -a triumph of self abnegation ;-) since coming back from K?ln over the X-mas holidays. I did not anticipate that my ability to stare for hours at a blank ground would soon outstrip my carefully prepared schedule.

At one moment, Stephanie approached me as I was working, offering to let me off the hook of rthe Barcelona trip. But no, I was determined to do it all, and trust -against all current signs- that I would be able to finish the final four works on paper before the shippers arrive next week to take the show to Germany. Relajate, tranquilo, hombre. As the calendar progressed, I mentally tucked away alternative plans just in case I wasn't able to finish the paper if I had to. I could ship them to Andr? via FedEx Europe if I missed the shipper's window, for example.

Returning from Barcelona last Thursday, I got back into the studio with a fourteen hour time frame before I had to transform myself from studio catepillar into a social buttterfly. I was able to get nearly everything done before our Spanish class at noon. Returning after class and grocery shopping, I had a window of a couple of hours that was more than enough to finish the painting.

And boom, it was done by five.

I started to clean up the studio. The plan was to serve sushi to our friends Kiko and Teresa on a table set up in the studio, paintings all around. We bought a bunch of stuff at the Asian food market when we were in Barcelona and we had just enough time to get the house together and prepare the dinner, our second try at making internet researched sushi.


The night proceeded in good stead, Kiko and Teresa puzzling over how to work the chopsticks, wincing at the tang of wasabi, all laughs and chatter in Castellano. Then there was a power failure in the old part of town and we ate by candleight. How wonderful it was and such great timing. Lights came back on in the streets but the house was still dark, so you could see the glow outside the window. The candlelight was bright enough to see the paintings in a different way.

At one point, Kiko asks me pointedly: "Dennis, do you miss Los Angeles? Do you miss your old home?" Yes, I said. He doesn't want us to leave, bless his heart. But I wanted him to be prepared for the day we have to return to LA. We don't know how it all will work out, but we we are fortunate enough to own houses in both Tossa and Los Angeles... and right now, we can afford to live only in one of them,,, but the original plan was to some day engineer a way to live half a year in one place and half a year in the other. We don't know how we are going to do it, we don't know if that will be the ultimate objective. But just as we had to come to Tossa de Mar to actually live and maintain this crazy building of ours... likewise, we will have to return to Los Angeles one day to do the same there.

Kiko was quiet for a little while after that.

Teresa kept the momentum going, explaining that Catalan was not a real language (she's Andalusian). By her account, the people of Kiko's generation (my age) learned Catalan at home while it was banned by Franco in the public at large. As a result, everyone has a different version of Catalan all over Catalonia, the variants dissapating the language into oblivion. I guess that's why Catalonia is trying to reinstitute Catalan in the schools. The trouble is that the kids are slipping in Castellano skills, while the variants of Catalan persist. All this, told while Kiko was away from the table, he would get angry. He thinks such divisions might shed blood again one day.

I was curious about what happened at Carnival, and Kiko told us about his costume, he was a pirate, complete with furious dreadlocks. I would have loved to see it, but that party had a three day price tag. Later, Kiko told us of the fishing off the rocks near the Codolar cove. I ask how big the fish are, and Kiko presents his palm, little ones. But you can catch a fish everytime you wet your line (and I remember swimming through massive schools of fish, this is true), and in a short while, you can have a quick dinner, cleaning the little fishies at the water's edge. Now, that's appealing to me. Soon, we will be eating sea urchin with pan Catalan and fried fish with a Spanish tortilla and some local wine.... oh yeeeeea.

When we served dessert, Kiko cracks a joke in a voice dripping with irony, eyes rolling up: "Oh... ice cream... how wonderful." It seems he has a running joke with Teresa that he is the king of warm houses. He and Teresa have an apartment at the other side of town, but they rent this crumbling old house, the one he grew up in, near us by the cove. They like the spirit of the older buildings. This year, he jerry-rigged an efficient cast iron stove in to his rustic palace, wanking the chimney pipe in a Rube Goldberg zig-zag from room to room and eventually plugged it into the kitchen chimney on the other side of the house. It was hilarious, the way he did it, this stout galvanized pipe drawing a fat line around his house. The result: temperatures of around 20˚ to 22˚ C/ 68˚-71˚ F (by comparison, our place is around 8˚ to 10˚C/ 48˚ to 56˚F). Kiko is the king of warm and toasty, a revolution of heat in a house where he grew up next to the sea and endless chilly winters... now no more. He likes to play up his comedic role.

"What is next... ice coffee?"


The clock struck one and of course, came the invitation to night cap at one of the local bars. Cell phones came out to rendezvous with other friends. We end up at a bar we had not yeat been to, just around the corner of the house. Outside the bar, the guys from the power company were out in force in their safari style ladder racked, equipment stuffed white Land Rover Defender SUV's. Happy Spaniards in full repair battle gear: hard hats, white overalls, knee pads, rigging harnesses, and complete with head mounted lamps. They were big boys with big toys and big smiles on their faces. The people in the bar could see them through the windows, and this was a particular entertainment in the improvised candle light. Beers went up in the occasional toast. Then the lights came on and shouts of "?Ole!", more toasts.

Joan and Monica were there, always smiling and ready to crack a joke. Kiko's childhood friend, another builder in town, came up with a beer in hand and well past the sobirety tipping point, speaking the clearest yet husky Castellano and testifying for us the exemplary character of Kiko. Well, that was already obvious, arms draped around shoulders all around.

Then Kike arrived. Kike (short for Enrique) was the guy who told us about Asimov's Foundation sereies and how the relation between the EU and the USA is foreshadowed therein, so we knew already where he's coming from. The USA bugs. And yet, he's very sympatico man by our measure. Kike is separated from our neighbor Peri, who adopted a Romanian boy, Julian. Kike's head is usually in the clouds (he has a lot to say of science fiction and politics) and he is strange enough here for the girls to move to the other side of the bar when he arrives. I think he's just fine, un buen hombre.

Kike told us of how he voted in the recent referendum -no- and why. He told us that he is a Communist, making sure to warily acknowledge our Yanqui identity. Apparently he didn't think the EU constitution served the Communist ideal well enough. All these normally incindiary ideas were transacted without rancor, and we both agreed that there are differences in which these political categories are understood across the Atlantic and over time. I reached for the deepest political idea we could hold in common, remembering that Communism was an attempt to overthrow historical European class differences, so I said to Kike that it is all about libertad... and on that slender but strong reed we raised our glasses in a toast.

I asked Kike about what he has been reading lately: Roscicrucianism. I kind of know a little about it, very little, so I ask if it is about Astral Projection, making a funny by pantomining a flying spirit from my solar plexus. Smiling, he described something about how one can form reality by a projection of thoughts in advance of our life-paths through the world. Or something like that.

The clock apprached four as we made our way home, just around the corner. The next day: Piet and Monique will come over for some jamalaya. The next week: Ramon will arrive witht he traveling frames (probably just-in-time) and the shippers arrive Wednesday or Thursday. I anticipate an all nighter with the power screwdriver. There will be no true rest until that is done.

Posted by Dennis at February 26, 2005 5:00 PM


The third one, Dennis -- uber fresh. Prickly, perked, plain, and punchy.

I'll go 1, 3, 2
ONE has borrowed space like a china garden, now that I see it in full I like it more, the green/pink compliment with the same number of ocher spikers as pink, is a nice visual resolve.
THREE, seems to dance , fore, middle, background
with the visual strength resting in thsoe orange/green flatty's
TWO, is actually very compelling,that C-shaped smear atop the structural mass of coloration is a powerful contrast,nicely balanced by the trianglulation of lemon-white spikers. My wife Susan just walked by and said: oh, I like that one in the middle, with the red!...

"Writing about painting is like dancing about architecture" (Who said this? Wish I did) I'd like to send a painted response. . . if I may.

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - Frank Zappa

Uh, there's a lot to be said for the scraped dark background in #2 and the gap between the left and right edges of the paper and the edges of the paint.

?Que guay*, hombres!

Thanks for the insta-reviews!

I had just enough time to pop these into the blog before the social avalanch hit... so your words are the first to accompany the pics, I'm grateful for that.

The light washes out the colors a little and the full frontal sells the formal architecture short, but thanks for watching.

Brent- yea, I like to range form one side to the other, so after the dark one, a lighter note seemed the right thing to do.

Greg- thanks for the carefulness of your observations and thanks to Susan for liking the one I thought might have been the runt of the litter.

Steve- Wazzup! It's nice to hear from you. By all means, respond visually, I'll blog it. Send me an email on how you are doing!


Chris- Yea, the edges got a Richter reflux in Germany in my first shows there... the troweled paint dapples in a similar way I guess. I can only hope that the rest of the surface vocabulary can turn a page past Herr Richter in their minds. (I don't get this response anymore over there, but we will see soon.)

More blabbermouthery to come soon!

*"guay" is Castellano (or Catalan?) for "wow", and it's pronounced "goo-why" Sometimes, we hear "?Super guay!"

Hi Dennis,
They are remarkable. Wonderful preludes. For me there's a sense of tension set up by the movement, color and background and then between the form and paint. The first one is unexpected, the second is just too luscious and the third has this playful order to it....anyway bottom line, you're saying in paint what can only be said in paint and it's thrilling.
Thanks for the pics. Even though it's at a remove, I can carry the images inside. The comments and discussion help me w/my work too, so many thanks.


Among other things in these paintings I greatly enjoy and sympathize with your emphasis on the paint's materiality and your juxtapositions of layers of movement. The dark colors, sharp spikes and the greens give the paint's movements a military feeling. They feel dangerous in a humorous way.

The spiky paint balls remind me of the seed balls that fall from sweetgum trees in the neighborhood where I grew up. In our child culture they functioned as simple toys, art supplies -- the spikes made them stackable, and when dry they could be glued and painted -- and, of course, weapons.

Dennis, enjoyed the discription of interaction with your neighbors, hard to imagine same going on in downtown L.A.>>

Bill, I found the article you recommended by Plagens, it's the right time to say it, have to admit I was a bit suprised that it came from Kuspit- through Plagens. I had Kuspit marked as one of the double-talkers, anyway between saying and doing is all the difference.Maybe it's just a "trial baloon" eh?

I consider words, particularly those forged by makers, essential (I listen to an artist first and read critics to see if they have the track). Artists, especially painters and sculptors, tend to shy away from giving some very basic clues, inroads, to the work. Well, "we'll leave it up to the critics--the wordsmiths of the trade" is not always such a good thing. I consider that painting can benefit from artists finding and developing word language and phraseology--creating strains and strings of words that actually, from another side, develop understanding of a work (as opposed to give meaning to it)--countering misunderstanding as to what went into a piece or show's making; the various silent intricacies and drives. Count it as a silent reflection -- reflection perfect without wind (delivering a level of honesty). The current interpretations upon painting are often very uneven. That makes sense because painting has been talked about with the same language for now over a century--and rallied only sixpence worth the last few decades or so. But, also, more importantly, artist words could help rejuvenate a critical awareness; help out wordsmiths and critics who, by the way, are urgent for a more meaningful dialogue between the writer/critic, the audience, and the artist. Words from the other side could not only count but also help change the incumbent, ferociously, artist devouring chain--unlock the landscape (from writing dear intelligent things that oft have little to do about much).

Ditto on the description on the night of the butterfly?I felt the lights die and replace with candles, many, many, blocks away.

By now I've read everyone about the Kuspit book but not the Kuspit book itself, and I guess I need to do that soon. I'm starting to feel, however, like maybe he's being a bit of a crank.

Case in point -- if the writing about the book is true, and here again I must read it myself -- apparently Kuspit indicates a number of objective painters working nowadays and speaking of them as pointing the way toward a new Renaissance in art.

He seems to hate Hirst, and I can't mount a strong argument against him there. If Kuspit's argument is that art has thrown away its relevance because, owing to DuChamp, anything can be called art and anything is being called art, then I could side with him.

Now, why I don't give a flip about Hirst's sliced cow in a tank, but I do respond intuitively in a positive way to the bronze cow carcasses over at Mary Boone, I can't say.

Unfortunately what Kuspit appears to be saying is that Fischl, Jenny Saville, Currin and other representational painters are pointing the way to a new Renaissance. I like some of their work -- actually I have big disagreements with Fischl and Currin -- but over all I don't see them pointing the way to a new Renaissance anymore than I see the new generation of fundamentalist Christians pointing the way to a new spirituality in America.

But I have to shut up and read the book now.

Inspired by Brent Hallard?s post, I am giving up my precious studio time in order to write about painting. I thought I?d first have a go at an Aphorism-alla-Hollingsworth (seeing as it is his blog and all): Dennis is participating the the substance of the heavens. He is creating an enclosed universe that has strict guidelines but no rules. He is creating a language. He is making up a game (our greatest games are the ones that we invent ourselves) (My personal favourite was one in which my 7-11 slurpee cups played a convoluted version of football that involved me flipping coins and chess-like movements on the avocado shag carpet. Do dualitys always emerge while playing? or living? DC vs. Marvel, GI Joe vs. Major Matt Mason, Republican vs. Democrat, and yet they all begin as the same thing. Super heros, action figures, and politicians).
Dennis, what?s your personal rule if , while you are painting, you accidentally ?see? something in your work? Do you destroy it? Or obfuscate it? Do you shout: ?Holy Shit. . . Check it out! That looks like a blankity-blank!? Show it to someone, and then destroy it? How many synapses are you sharing with the Rorchach test? Did you ever get a chance to read ?A Theory of /Cloud/? by Hubert Damisch? When I was cracking turtle shells onto marble slabs I read this book and realised with some relief that what I was doing was nothing peculiar. Humans have always looked at chaos and tried to conjure order. But what is different maybe about what you are doing is that you are creating the chaos. (With tasteful hints of order).
Do you listen to music in the studio?
Do you go through a ritual? (Coffee, nap in the chair, read, another coffee, paint, wine?)
Do you experience mini revelations while working in your paradigm? Little truths that seem like life lessons: ?A colors perceived hue can change according to its context.?
How much of your time on a painting is craft and how much is spontaneous mark making? (Mind you, this is not a loaded question, I cherish both, and I suppose the goal of a painter today is a synthesis.)
I don?t have time but I want to continue later with Surrealism (which you brought up in an e-mail, and I had never made the connection regarding your work, but duh, and the divination of paintings, and ritual and ?Blink? (Snap judgements based on experience = intuition). Title making, Walid in Lebanon, Daniel B. in LA, Dali in Chabons.
but, before I go I?d like to thank chisashley for the Zappa clue, but I?ve also heard that it was Mingus, or Steve Martin.

how much for the dark painting with red highlights? it has the "lunar landing" look. SWEET!

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