December 21, 2018

Revolving X-ray


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December 20, 2018

Thinking Aloud

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This post offers no conclusions, just a few tugs on some tendons in history.

Painting with a catalog of formal attributes of impasto oil (in addition to the usual characteristics of paint: color, tone, etc)... it was like I found a hidden pull down menu in painting's program. I was looking for the PROOF OF LIFE after being force fed the narrative of the so called "death of painting" via critical theory in grad school.

Paint rose from the muck, like Neo wriggling out of the pod in Matrix. Like Laocoön and the Hellenistic Baroque group, entanglement is the prime attribute of facture. (Facture is a characteristic quality of paint handling. All paint is handled. Some like to think of Rothko. Like Van Gogh, I tend to think of Franz Hals, Velasquez and Goya.)

I started with Warhol because I wanted a foil for the artists to follow, and probably because I had just seen the Warhol show at the Whitney, Andy Warhol--
From A to B and
Back Again
. As the title suggests, Warhol completed a circuit in his life. What is A? What is B? A recent conversation with friend S.O., we talked about how -when- art reaches the stalemate of Classical epitome, the only way forward is a disruptive baroque. We agreed that Warhol returned to the AbEx he departed from in his final paintings, especially his paintings hung in the last room of the Whitney exhibition... a huge horizontal of thirty feet or more... that made me think of David Reed's controlled and cropped brushy flourishes. Was -is- Reed doing what DeKooning would have done if he had lived another 20 years and not had lost his mind? And remember, Willem blotted his paint, not unlike Andy did his inky lines.

Jumping to the front of the line, it was Robert Ryman who declared the totality of a painting from all elements of the support through the paint to the varnished cap, to be candidate for plastic manipulation. Facture. Curious -to my mind- that he seemed to have abandoned this project, I see no signs of this radicalized plastica in his recent work... or perhaps I misunderstand him? No matter, I like the portrait just as I have drawn. It was the need for armature that brought me to the vitrines. It was the inherent limitations of impasto oil that keeps my scale to the size of arms embraced. Any larger, and material strains under the extremes of physics, such as the extents of flying saurischians or lumbering brachiosaurs as the brontosaurus did. Galileo's Square-Cube Law applies to paint as well. So it was that the armature of my vitrines prompted me to think of the support-as-armature and this train of thought brought me to Ryman.

S.O.'s comment about the baroque escape from the straight jacket of refinement, brings us to Stella. His painting as an object "...a flat surface with paint on it, nothing more..." conjures Judd's position that the rectangular plane of painting "...determines and limits the arrangement of whatever is on or in it." Of course, Judd isn't conceding that limits can also summon limitlessness... every argument involves artifice, after all. But Stella's early painting is an elegant exercise of the Judd position. I wonder how much they communed in thought together?

It was in the constructive plastic potential of the support that I saw relatively unexploited, opportunities yet to be explored. The likes of Supports/Surfaces Group are not included in my list since approaches like that assume that the configuration of the traditional canvas & stretchers is a given, and all that can be done is to attenuate them. There is much more possible when an architect's eye looks at the tension and compression, the nature of wood, wire and weave of canvas.

Page two.

When I was teaching architecture design back in the 90's, I asked my students to define modernism and postmodernism when I realized that they were trading in terms that they didn't yet clearly understand. I was surprised to learn Shortly thereafter that many (if not all?) in my community in the art world found it difficult to supply succinct definitions of the operative programs of the 20th century. In fact, there seemed to be an unwillingness to summarize the latter or even trade in the use of the term, succinctness was too essentialist then... and perhaps this sentiment yet lingers today. Naturally, I was asking a question I was more than prepared to answer. To be modern is to touch G-d (better, to attempt to touch G-d) via material means. To be postmodern is to point (indexically) to everyday life (the quotidian)via conceptual means.

Now, I have another question pertinent to our time... at a point in our history when we find it difficult to gaze squarely at history both past and to come. This is a question that I've started to ask of my fellow artists, but also upon the recent occasion of visiting the studios of a local art graduate school: where are we in art history and where are we going? Much like my interrogatory of the 90's, this one of the latter aughts (just curious, what will the generation coming of age in 2020 be called?) stirs not an insignificant amount of anxiety. Well. good. We should be uneasy when we avoid confronting the obvious.

I'm encouraged to find stirrings of unease in articles such as this: Looking Back to Move Forward
When I try to make sense of art today, it feels similar to the 1970s--a period during which the rule book was thrown out, and artists splintered into byways of plurality. Then as now, it was unclear where art was going. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, we can now recognize the 1970s as one of the most exciting and epoch-transforming decades in the history of modern culture. But then, that was a daring, liberating and revolutionary time for art while today feels rife with careerism, stylistic conservatism, and sophomoric (or base) chess moves.

We should have asked such questions thirty years ago when the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of the 20th century (a decade early), and 17 years ago when the end of the End of History prompted us fruitlessly. Is it any wonder that zombies walk amongst us?

Almost as a footnote, I jotted another thought stream about the operation of the picture plane in the context of all the above. Half digested, there is something important here.

All of this analysis is in service to intuition. In contrast to the programmatic diktat of the era of Critical Theory, the successor epoch will be driven by its' antithesis, by gut instinct and inkling. Whispers to G-d's ear perhaps? Perhaps. But intuition operates in a context that is perceived perhaps consciously and certainly at levels of awareness that exist just below the surface. Like quality compost, diversity and aeration are key elements of a healthy civilizational seedbed.

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Studio X-ray


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Poetry Reading / Undererasure / Pierogi



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December 18, 2018


A big chunk of this fall upon returning from Spain was spent in a collaboration with my old friend Gerard (Gerry) Smulevich, creating an artist residency in Tossa that will premier next summer 2019 if all works out well. We have the website up and running, and we are promoting, looking for the participants in the inaugural program.

Check out the website, and if you are curious, check out the summer archives of this weblog and my Instagram feed for signs of this project in gestation.

Website: AIR.CAT

From the Press Release:
November 16, 2019 - AIR.CAT (Artists in Residency, Costa Brava) is a new studiobased
artist residency opportunity located in Tossa de Mar, Spain that blends exposure
to Spanish/Catalan culture with related outdoor activities on the Mediterranean
coastline of Costa Brava. AIR.CAT welcomes applicants committed to artistic
excellence within a wide spectrum of the visual arts: painting, sculpture, photography,
site-specific, installation and every media in between. The deadline for applications is
January 15th, 2019.
Tossa de Mar is a small coastal town founded by the Romans and situated just 100
kilometers north of Barcelona. Tossa's renown blossomed in the 1930's as an artist and
intellectual retreat that included writers Archie and Nancy Johnstone, Rafael Benet,
Marc Chagall, André Masson, Georges Bataille, Oscar Zügel, Ortho Lloyd, Dora Maar
and many others. In the 1950's, the Hollywood production of "Pandora and the Flying
Dutchman" starring Ava Gardner and James Mason was shot there on location,
drawing the jealous presence of a prowling Frank Sinatra, Gardner's love interest at the
Those years left a mark on the village, a testimony of which can be seen in the
collection of Toss's Municipal Museum of Art, which houses a collection of early
contemporary art created and inspired by that seaside town. The echoes of those glory
days have receded in the ensuing fifty/seventy years but the town still remains the
inspiring vessel it ever was.
With the intention of reviving the flourishing production of art in Tossa de Mar, The City
of Tossa de Mar in collaboration with American artists Dennis Hollingsworth and Gerard
Smulevich has organized a four week summer artist residency program that combines
guided tours with an active studio which will culminate in an exhibition - symposium of
art work to open to the public and attended by the press. Dennis Hollingsworth is a
painter with a 30-year professional history, has exhibited internationally and is
represented by galleries in Los Angeles, New York and Barcelona. His production is
based in dual studios located in both NYC and Tossa de Mar. Gerard Smulevich is an
urban/architecture photographer and full-time academic who was mentored by the late
Julius Shulman; he has exhibited his work internationally and has had his photographs
published by Tachen and by Center Press. Smulevich has directed university-level
study programs for 16 years focusing on the art and architecture of Barcelona and
AIR.CAT is organized on the concept of the littoral, the area of transition between
terrestrial and maritime systems. The program focuses on four littorals attached to
connected outdoor excursions: the dry littoral (hiking the coastline), the wet littoral
(exploring the shore with kayaks), the immersed littoral (snorkeling under the sea) and
the cultural littoral (tours and exposure to the multitude of cultural offerings both in
Tossa and nearby Barcelona. Structured within four weeks, the tempo of experiences
will be balanced against the need to focus in the studio. There will be much to absorb
and even much more to express in the work of the six selected resident artists.
The City of Tossa de Mar is actively involved in supporting this residency and is
supplying the program's studio work space within the Municipal Museum of Art, a
remarkable 13th Century sea-front building located within the walled Old city of Tossa.
The Musuem will also host the public exhibition + Symposium with all participants at
the end of the program.
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Under/erasure at Pierogi Gallery

It's an honor to be included in a huge group show loaded with interesting and significant NYC artists. Curated by Heather and Raphael Rubinstein, it's a thoughtful and articulate meditation on the relationship between art and writing and rewriting and overwriting.

It's an honor to show at the esteemed Pierogi Gallery and a fabulous great distinction to be included in the thought processes of the Rubinsteins. The gist of the show is that one always emphasizes that which is struck out. The essence of the idea is that gist is elusive. The thought behind the show is about the overlay upon overlay of thought, writing and art.

Pierogi Website.
Under/erasure Website. So wonderful, professional and complete. Be sure to check out the full listing of participating artists. So well done.


Very nice too, to be hanging next to Loren Munk!



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Please Stand By

Mea Maxi Culpa!

We've had an interregnum!

Time to stop the stoppage.

15 years of blogging is a long haul. Around a year or so ago, I finally got involved in Instagram. A late adopter, I was critical of the smaller dimension of the platform, the fixed imagery, the canned presentation, the content limited to blurbs. Friends convinced me that... this is where the action was at, that one had to participate to be socially connected. True, that. It was also true for Facebook, once upon a time. I was a late adopter of Twitter, too. I mostly lurk, my tweets are very few. But I've found that after a time, I rely on it too much for breaking news, instead of hitting the five to fifteen regular news and news aggregator sites that I used to graze daily at. I've also noticed that Twitter has lost much of its' richness and diversity recently. I correlate this with the recent turn to hard handed "curation" and anti-free speech ostracism that has been going on in the past few years.

Now, I am about to take a hard exit from FB, a procedure that I will execute during the winter holiday. Why? I don't like being herded by platforms and media corporations. I don't like the money grubbing power seeking king-of-the-world domination by most of the tech community and those of us who are influenced by it beyond. Lust. Gollum and his precious ring. We need success but there's something ugly about it along the way.

I have noticed in myself an increasing reticence to blog in the past couple of years. Maybe the sensation has always been there, and there wasn't the ease of IG's couple of clicks to sate the social urge. It's easy to blame IG, maybe too much so. Maybe it's the message in the bottle sensation of blogging... but then this excuse would blame you, dear reader, for not commenting and interacting. I'm too much of a lurker myself to believe that self-told lie.

There is too, that hermit's gene somewhere in my helix. Whoever I am, I am not that attention whore seeking psychopath. I also know that there is also a grandiosity sequence somewhere along in the strand, and I can only hope that both DNA chains are counterbalancing each other ( a way that avoids the Unabomber's profile).

A very big shout out to fellow artist/reader Jimmy for a nice neat kick in the pants. Thanks Jimmy!

A retreat from blogging would sabotage my overall practice, especially since this blog is a source of titles and a repository of contextual content. Also, this blog might someday be recognized as the art form, art media that I believe it is and could be. Blogs have arisen and have become eclipsed but they remain classic and as such enduring. Blogging's overlooked underdog status is perfect for staving off the predatory egoistic greed that has devoured and destroyed other information age venues. Also, this blog is an artists' hail Mary pass for posthumous recognition, the trail of breadcrumbs in a forest of signs, the labyrinth's thread. Very important stuff, this.

It's time to retrain my habits and get back to eating less processed information. So please stand by while I tune up and rev up the engine...

Postscript: The critique continues...

On the subway to the studio this morning (Dec. 19th), I listened to Reply All's first episode: #1 An App Sends A Stranger To Say "I Love You" (transcript at the link).

Face-to-face has become a frightening prospect. Listening to it, I thought of something I think we have all noticed, of the reticence of my younger friends to directly communicate. Years ago before FB, IG and Twitter, I noticed that my friends -especially the younger ones- tended to not answer their phones. Texts and email were preferred, and over time, I noticed that not all of these were answered, at first promptly and later not at all. Since then, social attenuation has slowly but certainly deepened.

In the studio, between decision trees, I tend to play Youtube like a radio. This video connects to the theme in Reply All's podcast:

A critique of social media, a conversation between Richard Grannon and Sam Vaknin, psychologists. Listening to Vaknin, I reflected on the recurrent exhibitions over the years that feature "cutting edge" "tech-savvy" artwork, especially the kind of painting that performs the gymnastic trick of shining a light on futuristic technology via a antiquated one. The Information Age was supposed to open up worlds, connect the world, not curl up ever so tightly past the shredding event horizon into one's own solitary singularity. The former was what the art world thought was the cutting edge... the latter turned out to resemble a stricken teenage cutter's self mutilation.

So much was discussed that merits extensive note taking. But if I have to select one from the bounty of insights -and I must- I would focus on 1:20:00, where they posit that love, intimacy is the competitor of social media. Intimacy is a threat to social media. I note this, thinking about how love and passion has dropped out of art collecting in recent years. Vaknin even summons the comparison to zombie movies in his extensive analysis... hello, Martin Mugar!

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