Monday, September 24, 2007

And, you're soaking in it

I've been hashing through pieces for my upcoming show out in Colorado in November. I'm doing the show with my buddy Marc Wilhite who just moved back out to Denver from Boston.
The show is a meditation of sorts on a series of speeches written by Italo Calvino that are collected together in the book
Six Memos for the Next Millenium. In this collection, Calvino explores five elements (he died prior to writing on the sixth piece) that lend to the timelessness of certain works of literature.
The process of developing this show has been a challenge for me conceptually. We're certainly not interested in creating a series of visual examples to illustrate Calvino's concepts. The exhibit is being called In the Spirit of the text, and that is really how we're working; within the spirit of the considerations that characterized Calvino's approach to both his own work and the appreciation he felt for the work of other writers.

Outside of the specific elements dealt with in the writings, I've been considering the notion of how knowledge and even taste, are passed along and experienced, and how much do we rely on secondary sources to gain our sense of the world. I've been thinking of our society's arbiters of taste or morals and how we absorb knowledge through primary experience or filtered through these arbiters and aggregators - the Oprahs, self help gurus, and John Tesh's of the world. And as artists we process this stuff into application that find their way into the our work.
From that strain of thought, I've been ruminating on how I pick up and absorb snippets of visuals or ideas in my working process. It's like an open ended, scavenger hunt where one discovery or clue opens the door to the next one, creating a zig zag trail of significance within the resulting work.

In one aspect of this current work, this meandering path has led from thinking of the relationship between literature and visual art, and they can stand on equal footing side by side. On top of that, I looked at a passage in one of the memos where Calvino bemoans the inexactitude with which language is oft employed. That ineffectual use of language led me to look at the jumble of letters that arrive in my mailbox as the subject lines of spam. I've been noting these subject lines for sometime for their bizarre, funny language, and often abstract letter combinations.
ligature studies, gouache on paper, 3" x 8"

In the process of applying this spamwerk to the task of creating work, I happened to listen to a podcast lecture given by font designer, Matthew Carter at SVA. Carter spoke of ligatures and construction component in an instance where he developed a font in response to text he saw in the paintings of Mantegna, the process of assessing and absorbing elements of similarly ...With all of this in my mind, I learned via Bad at Sports of the 50th Anniversary of the Helvetica font and so it goes.

This trail is indeed meandering, but it's paramount to my reading of Calvino's Six Memos, and the way I'm approaching the exhibit as an appreciation of discriminating immersion. The thrust of my sentiment is that as a critic of writing, Calvino is foremost a lover of writing, a metabolizer of literature. In his Memos, Calvino doesn't enumerate the commandments of writing, rather I feel, he's sharing his joys of his immersion in the stuff. It's the trip you take in the soup, and when you're in it everything's in the mix. With experience and discipline, one is able to discern what sticks, and what gets carried downstream.

I'll get into more of this later, but this sheds a bit of light onto where I'm at currently with this work.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Please rewind tape before returning

Blue painter's tape has become an almost ubiquitous medium for artists. It's a pretty, cobalt kind of blue. Light filters through it nicely...

Well, I use a lot of the stuff when I'm doing my decorative painting gigs. Regular masking tape too. As I wrap up a job, I roll the tape into a glob, sticky side in, as much as possible, for easy depositing in a trash bag.

The activity has sometimes taken on aspect of a short term challenge (similar, I'm sure, to the spirit that spawned the world's largest ball of twine) to see how large a ball I can create given the amount of tape use on a job.

Recently, though, I've taken to seeing this as an opportunity to create some small impromptu sculptures. Without getting too fussy about the shape, I try to be aware of the form as it develops. The added color of paint on the edge of the tape informs the process, adding variety. It's an activity that's a sort of meditation on the end of a project, and the refuse produced by the process.

These images represent a few of the pieces I've done in the tape. A friend came to visit my studio last week, and I told her that at the moment, I find the possibility of these small things more exciting than the thought of painting. As with the skins of dried paint that I've used both as subject in my slough paintings, and as sculpture itself, as with the Blesse wall pieces, I think there's room to play with these things.