Thoughts about painting

Update 6/15/21

I started making abstract painting because it was what I wanted to see in the world. 

Why the cube? Well, I deploy this literal framework as a system and constraint for my practice, like many abstract painters (that  is, using a framework, not necessarily cubes). The conceptual basis of this choice is in part that  the cube is  representational of early, Modernist ideas of nonrepresentational painting- we now know the canon is not a complete account of abstraction’s genesis, so here I think the cube can (just) be shorthand, pointing to “concerned with its own formal qualities” rather than the totality of Art or even abstract painting.

Also, cubes and grids like but not identical to the ones I draw are foundational to the aesthetics of earliest generation computer animation, which was formative for my own preferences (and you can now guess my age probably, too). 

I am aware of the possible implication of a desire for order from the use of geometric forms.  More than anything I want to foreground the act of looking. I harness the tools and lessons of painters from the first 2/3s of the last century and place an emphasis on color, shape and line (is formalism still the right word for that? ) to do so. I generally hope a true and deep love of all periods of western nonobjective painting is present and evident in my work.

I do intentionally include elements in my practice which require spontaneity (the word artists use instead of “play”) as well as editing choice(s) because I enjoy operating in a space or mode where the very next outcome is not entirely known. Experimentation and “play” are important- I see my practice as engaged with creating an experience for viewers that is the result of an experience for me (and exchange of energy between parties). Working through the composition for each piece- drawing one cube, then appending another, then another- is also, for me, like automatism, a sort of “action painting” part of my process. I sometimes use painter’s tape or a mahl stick, but- again- not out of a desire to be “fussy” about the work. 

This spontaneity is preeminent for me in my installation work.

I am also interested in the idea that two things can simultaneously be true- painting is by nature flat (a surface) and can imply space/depth. Or, said differently, a painting is a real thing that is also an illusion of something else. Some people might use the word contradiction for this, and I am certainly interested in the possibilities that contradiction can create (e.g. the contradiction that three rhomboids make a cube when combined and these shapes can also be a pattern), although I am not sure it is the right word.

And I guess the question all the Art types want answered is “why foreground the act of looking.” There’s a litany of answers available to that question from people a lot smarter than me. I guess the one… question to the question I come back to is “well, what else is left for painting to do?” I’m pretty sure the answer is that there’s nothing left it HAS to do and focusing inwardly becomes much less fraught in an era when that doesn’t mean a vacuous adherence to silly machismo and baseless ideas about the “true” nature of things. 

Choice is also a rapidly dwindling resource.

While we can’t recreate the cultural moment of Modernism… here we are, in 2021, in a moment where the world is again on the brink of major change because our old systems no longer serve us. My reaction to this epoch is not a mirror of the Modernists’ choice in their time to reject direct or naturalistic representation of the world; neither is “making the work I want to see in the world” a metaphor about society or some kind of middle way between the two. If I had to describe the intentionality behind my choice I’d say I feel no ability to steer either history or my place in it, and I feel a dual obligation to personally invest- “lean into” as we say in the business world where I spend much of my day- that which has cultural significance to me and to be truthful about the cultural arc of this modality. 

I’ve always felt a bit (not a lot, but a bit) pretentious placing myself in the historical context of Art with a capital “A”, and particularly abstraction as a project. Like all serious post-modern artists, I take inspiration from where I see fit, whether that’s the visual “snap” that is created in late 20th century animation by layering drawings on acetate,  or a certain school of abstract painting. (I think) being a serious artist need not mean trying to carve out space in the canon for yourself- probably everything that can be painted has at this point. If history is the only true filter of what is art, not artists- then our only job is to create. Painting after art is dead is liberating!