Tuesday, March 29, 2005

this way and that

I'm trying desperately to reconcile my need to continue exploring minimal images while embracing a more expressive painting style. I've been struggling to bring these two opposing aproaches together in some of the new paintings. Its difficult to say it this approach is working or not yet. However, it seems the more expressive imagery is winning out at the moment. That's the direction I've been going in lately, so there's nothing shocking about that last statement.

I'm thinking that I should break the work up into two separate series. That way, both creative needs get met and I don't have to struggle as much to bring these two sensibilities together in one series of paintings. If the coupling of the minimal and expressive happens to work for a particular piece, then I'll go with if. Otherwise, doing separate series seems to be the way to go for now.

Too many ideas, not enough time. The only thing I can do is keep working and hope something works out.

Most exciting for me has been to work my way through the new painting ideas and discovering new things along the way. For instance, I've noticed that I've managed to create a nice tension between background/foreground relationships by varying the width of some lines and attempting to reverse the usual order of colors. That is, traditionally, dark colors recede and light colors come forward. By using a darker color beneath lighter, but more intense hues in the gridwork and making the dark background lines thicker than the forground lines, there is a sense that the depth of field has been collapsed. This seems to create a tension between background and foreground that I find exciting and it makes the painting more interesting.

Tomorrow and Thursday I have a few goals I'd like to achieve related to the studio:

1. Come up with titles for finished works.

2. Stretch some more small canvases for a minimalist series I have in mind. 12"x12" or 12"x 15" Maybe I'll try one of two of both before settling on one size or the other.

3. Pack painting up for delivery to New York on Friday.

4. Make changes to art resumé.

5. Paint, paint, paint and paint some more!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Working through it

The piling on of loosely painted grid structures in my new paintings is only working out marginally well at the moment. With both of the new paintings I worked on last week, I wound up painting out large sections in an effort to re-direct my initial ideas into something workable. I don't know what that is and it's pretty unclear right now where any of it is heading.

The questions I have now are: Now that I've abandoned (for the time being, at least) the hard-edged stripe in favor of multiple variations of hand-drawn grid structures, what is the new work about? What am I saying/doing here? why switch from the controlled energy of the stripes for the all-over, looser format I'm investigating now?

I can only partially answer these questions. The easiest one to tackle is the last.

I let go of the striped elements because I'm working with a different kind of energy than what was contained in the paintings of the past few years. I wanted to return to a less-controlled, more spontaneous way of painting. More than that, I wanted the new paintings to be more physically worked and explore ideas of accumulation and negation. Forms/images are emerging and accumulating and then being deleted in part of in their entirety as I search for an image that makes sense and feels complete.

What is the work about?

There's no direct answer for this question at the present. All I can say is that the new paintings are developing from ideas I began in drawings I've been working on since last fall. I guess I'm still exploring the accumulation of overlapping images gathered from my environment: urban grids, lots of visual/aural stimulation, linear patterns intersecting and repeated.

I've been looking for ways in which I could translate the hand-drawn grids done on paper with graphite into paintings. At first, I wanted to replicate the look and feel of the drawings on canvas, but failed miserably because of the inherent differences in materials and media. However, I've continued working with the idea and found I had to give up thinking I could achieve the same results in different media for this project. Once I let go of that, the paintings have taken on a life of their own and I'm appreciating the results a lot more.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Time to put up...

I have little more than five months to get a bunch more work ready for my exhibition. That means the dishes will sit in the sink a little longer than usual, the floor will be covered with magazines and papers (mostly half-read, oh, wait that happens now...nevermind), and there's a chance that the plants will barely make it through the summer.

For my last solo show, I completed 21 works and we used 17 of those in the exhibition. Even though there's a relatively short time before the next one I already have 9 paintings finished that I would show, along with a number of drawings. I'm in the midst of working on two more. As before, my goal is to have enough new work so that I can choose what will be in the show and what won't.

Yesterday morning, despite feeling crappy with a stuffy head, I managed to get up to the studio and stretch three small canvases. I almost made it to the fourth, but time ran short and I had to get to my job. It's sometimes hard to be there and use that time just doing mundane tasks like stretching canvas and tearing down paper, but it has to be done. When I have a short time to accomplish those tasks, I'm usually pretty efficient with that time. What makes it difficult is when there are unfinished paintings sitting around and all I want to do is get on with completing them. I caught myself staring at the two I'm currently working on and daydreaming about what I want to do with them next. Thinking to myself, "Should I paint over that area?", "Maybe I could add something over there...", "That color doesn't seem right" and on and on... I snapped out of it, but that's how it is almost all of the time. It's particularily bad when I have to be at the job all day. My mind constantly wanders back to what I'm working on in the studio and what I need to be doing in there. Some days I just want to walk away from work and go up to the studio. There are many days when I'd be much more productive there than at work. My job isn't bad and I'm happy to have one, but sometimes, it just gets in the way of the important thing which is making art.

Now that I have the goal of the show coming up, my work-weeks in the studio will be divided into two parts: prep-work (stretching canvases, buying materials, etc...) in the begining of the week in the mornings before going to work and actual painting later in the week on my days off. This schedule will probably be kind of flexible but I'll have to set aside time for prep-work more than I do now. I'd like to have as much time for actual painting as possible when I can be in the studio longest, which is on my days off.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Shot up to New York on Friday for the annual day of seeing too much art in one place. Amy (ex, but now good friend) and I had a great time going through The Armory Show. It seemed much better laid-out this year than in the past. One huge improvement was the limiting of almost all of the artwork to the booths and not having some of it out in the aisles. Made it easier to walk around and navigate through the crowd. I didn't take great notes, so what follows is a general assesment of what I saw.

There were a few things I noticed about the artwork being shown that bear mentioning:

-There seemed to be a tendency towards smaller works being shown. A lot of collage, both hand-made, digital and combinations of the two. No big video/installations like last year. In fact, video had a much smaller presence this year than in the past couple.

-Speaking of the hand-made, I saw more in the way of embroidered images than in the past. There wasn't a lot of it, but enough that I took notice, it was particularily big with a couple of the Japanese galleries that were there.

-Painting was really well represented and a lot of it was pretty, well, fair. Of course, I don't think this says much about painting everywhere since art fairs only give a small glimpse of what's out there. There was a good share of dull stuff unfortunately, and some of that had to do with my familiarity with certain artists' work.

-Sexual themes were more subtle this time around. So much so that you might have missed it altogether. The one exception that I can think of was a photograph titled, We Are All Such Animals. I forgot the artist's name, but it was a large (around 4' x 5') photograph of a blurry suburban-like street that had Photoshopped images of nude people grafted onto animal, bird, and insect bodies. The figures where in various porn-like poses and with the animal parts added on, it made for a clever and funny view of sex.

-As usual, many of the European galleries, the German ones in particular, showed some of the more rougher-edged work.

I got my daily amount of aerobic exercise in on the way up to NYC as I had to run for both the R-7 and the NJ Transit trains. I usually take the Chinatown bus, which is cheaper, but it doesn't have the amount of return trip options as the train does so I opted for the train. The closest near-miss came when I got into Trenton and had to go and purchase my ticket. I had six minutes before the train left. I ran upstairs, got in line behind a couple of people. Things were moving along smoothly until it was noticed that someone had left his wallet on the counter, and it was my turn. The clerk had to make an announcement about the wallet. Great, that should only take a minute or so. She makes the announcement and is on her way back to the window...NO! Don't stop to explain the situation to your co-worker now, dammit!

Ordinarily, I'm a patient person, but seeing as I had two minutes to catch the train, I wasn't in the mood. I knocked on the window and said I had to catch the train or risk being late for an important meeting. I told the clerk I understood the predicament, but I had to get going. Ticket in hand, I ran down the steps and up the platform. The conductor steps into the car, I yell for him to hold on and jump into the vestibule just in time.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'm finally getting on a consistent stride with my painting again. Even though I haven't been in there on the schedule I usually keep over the past four months, I have managed to get a few new paintings done, along with some works on paper. It's a good thing, too, because this morning, I had a meeting with Bridgette at the studio. In that meeting, she mentioned that a solo exhibition spot had opened up for this September. She asked me if I wanted the slot.

I had to think about it for, oh, a minute before agreeing to take it. She told me that I was originally scheduled to have my next show in March, 2006. At first, I was going to decline, feeling that 6 months wasn't going to be enough time to have the amount of good paintings I feel I need to have a successful show. However, I already have a number of new works done that are pretty strong, so I'm going for it. For the next few months, I'm going to concentrate on doing larger paintings and more drawings for this show. It's really nice to have a solid goal to shoot for. Not that I don't have goals with my work otherwise, but with an exhibition looming I tend to concentrate harder on what needs to be done in the studio.

Tomorrow, I'm off to New York for the Armory Show. It's mainly an art fair for collectors and gallerists, but I like attending it to see works by contemporary artists I wouldn't ordinarily get to see in one place. That said, the Armory Show is still kind of an odd way to see art. Galleries from all over the country plus a few from Europe have booths set up in which they display artworks and possibly make sales. It's just kind of strange to see so much art stuffed into those small spaces. Every time I go, I'm always afraid I'm going to step on something I shouldn't. With so much art around, it's really easy to go into art overload. That's when it's time to head to the over-priced concession stand, grab something and find a place to eat (usually a patch of carpet, since the tables are mostly filled for the duration of the fair) and people-watch for a while. Besides the art, people-watching is next best reason to be there.