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Monday, March 16, 2015

"Autonomy and Hypertext" A report from "Lighting out for the Territory" based on seeing the paintings up close and real

My blog post on ”Lighting out for Territory “ was written based on images sent me by the participating artists. Since seeing the work all together and sharing discussions with the artists at the opening, I feel compelled to rethink what I wrote. My thesis was to see the artists acknowledging Minimalism but taking it to a new spot colored by a more complex notion of humanity. I think that I have been beating this drum in previous blogs so that the cumulative effect is both tedious and distracting from exactly what these artist’s are doing.
Mugar

This shift in opinion started when Paul Pollaro told me that he observed a certain will to autonomy in my work. It was evidenced by how I assume control at all levels of my painting of what the paint does, which to his eye, seemed to push aside any lingering attachment to the object. He said, most artists leave the static object somewhere in their work. It lingers there as the remnant of the real, the world of the sitcom that I referred to in the "ConcordMonitor" piece. Probably why I always liked sailing. Reality is a nexus of force and resistance and constant reconsideration of how to balance them, not a stationary thing. The self is always in the middle of things. There is no object/subject split.

The truth of that idea seemed reinforced by emails I received from two artists in New York about my work, one a former student.(Ellie Pyle) Both responded enthusiastically to the introduction of empty space in my work. One thought it came from a sense of what lived beyond the object. She (Mary
Salstrom)said it could be the void or what she said the Chinese call Ma. I recall discovering that as a revelation when I observed a Southern Sung painting at the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas City use of the blank paper. I marveled at how the reality of a lake was created by the placement of a boat. Or fog in the trees was created by the manipulation of values in the trees. In both cases this resulted in the expanded notion of the object after it engaged the void. The boat created the water and the trees create the mist. The one engages the whole. There are no isolated objects.


Travers
Jason’s work close up required adjustments in my understanding of his work. There was one work that played romanticism off of minimalism. But in “Flotsam” the minimalist part of the painting was of such a pitch of darkness and off-putting texture to convey an emotion akin to anxiety. It brought to mind what Heidegger thought about moods in general and the mood of anxiety in particular.

Simon Critchley says the following about how Heidegger considers anxiety ;

“Anxiety is the first experience of our freedom, as a freedom from things and other people. It is a freedom to begin to become myself. Anxiety is the philosophical mood par excellence; it is the experience of detachment from things and from others where I can begin to think freely for myself.”

Anxiety is a precursor to autonomy.On the other hand there is also a sort of negative dialectic that Adorno postulated, where opposites sit side by side without being subsumed into a whole.There is an anti-Hegelian trope in Jason's work.An autonomy that leaves things linked like hypertext without imposing a resolution.If there is a resolution it exists outside of the canvas.

Addison Parks


This will to autonomy asserts itself in Addison’s placement of the bold gestures in front of the square shapes. A statement about the self-in-the-world being more important than the products of the mind.


Carr
Susan’s heightened brush movement reworks the gestures as though she wishes to remove any remnant of the recognizable even the memory of the stroke. Her thrust seems to be captured in the phrase from the Prajnaparamita:”Gone, Gone, Gone, utterly beyond.”

Pollaro’s latest work considers autonomy as existing in the world of hypertext, a world that is created by putting different definitions side by side. On the one hand for Paul reality is functioning in the chthonic world of  time before the advent of the Gods of Olympus, which introduced the clarity of laws and science. On the other hand his painting acknowledges the significance of that new world which does not supplant the titans so much as function in a sort of symbiosis. As in Jason's work the solution of these two worlds exists beyond the painting.

Pollaro


The more I delve into these issues, the notion of time and its relation to the canvas begin to perplex me. Instead of the harsh self-referentiality of Modernism, the paintings in this show seem to imply a synthesis somewhere other than in the works themselves.In the beyond in time or the utterly beyond of the prajna paramita.

Link to a blog that addresses notions of time in the "Forever Now" at MoMA




Thursday, March 12, 2015

I wrote a new article about the show from another angle in the Concord Monitor,Concord, NH


I just read the article and found it botched beyond recognition:In any case the link has expired.

Here is the original:


Artists left to right:Parks,Mugar,Travers and Pollaro(Susan left earlier)
It is commonplace to think of Abstract Art as solely work of the imagination and fantasy and Realism because it represents recognizable things as well! Real. But we have to ask: What is reality? Big questions that we don’t ask ourselves everyday but they have to be asked and are asked by the artists in this show. Just to ask it means there initially has to be more than one answer. Another way of putting it is as follows: How is the world we live in shaped. If we turn on the TV and watch our favorite sitcom it will no doubt be staged in a living room, a kitchen or an office, enclosed spaces where a small group of people exchange quips and repartee that remind us enough of your own life to keep us glued to the screen. This constrained world where we recognize ourselves most easily is the one we live in for the most part at home with family and friends or at work with colleagues and this is the world that is most often depicted in Realistic painting. But if one steps back from this conventional arrangement of people and things and ask how is this scene transmitted to our eyes in the first place, how is it shaped by us into a believable world, then we enter into the world that Abstract Art is better suited to depict.

                                                     
                                              Click here for: "Video of shows details"


It is a world that is put together by waves of light, broken down into a spectrum of colors and transformed by the complex physiology of the eye into the image we see in our mind’s eye that we call reality. It is also a world of laws and principles and mathematical formulas. If we look out our window and see our garden it is not just a beautiful landscape with trees and shrubs but through science we have knowledge of how a tree grows, how it absorbs energy from the sun, and adjusts to the seasons or climate change. Science has penetrated so deeply into the goings on of the body that there is no longer just one doctor to take care of you but a myriad of specialties for each organ and function of the body. Let’s imagine for a minute the effect of science on an artist like Matisse. The show of his abstract cut-outs that he did at the end of his life just closed at the Museum of Modern Art, and was one of the best attended shows in the history of the Museum. At the Armory show in New York in 1913, that showcased the avant-garde of Europe of which Matisse was a part, there were protests over what was perceived as the cold and inhuman nature of that kind of work. A little more than a hundred years later abstraction is sufficiently assimilated into the culture that crowds no longer express horror at its perceived crudeness but have come to praise its beauty. All that Matisse did in his work was to acknowledge the role of color in our perception of reality and push it to the foreground of his depiction of the world. He found that color when used in isolated patches of warm and cool can be used to rebuild reality on another platform. He understood that eyes use receptors that respond to color as well as light and dark. Until the Impressionists picked up on what the scientists had already studied in the physiology of the eye, art tended to use color in a literal sense of say the color of a dress being green or red. But when you realize that red and green are an optical construct of the eye, it opens up a whole new energized world that ultimately leads to abstraction.

The artists in this show are probably the fourth generation of abstractionists since the turn of the last century. The general direction of abstraction since Matisse has tended toward simpler and less empathetic shapes that ended in a movement called Minimalism, which dominated the art scene in the Sixties and Seventies. Many of the artists in this show studied with artists who were Minimalists or proposed in their teaching the use of austere and simple shapes like a square within a square or just a canvas of one color. We are all in our own way either wish to break out of Minimalism stylistically or add the human psychology that Minimalism ignored. In the work of Paul Pollaro it is the darkness and power of the earth not lit by the light of the Sun. Jason Travers with his multi-paneled paintings is the most beholden to Minimalism of all the artists in this show. On at least one panel within each painting there is one that is a romantic atmospheric landscape. He pointedly seems to say: Is flatness all there is to the goal of painting since Matisse. Susan Carr’s work comes out of the tradition of Abstract Expressionism that preceded Minimalism. There are none of the smooth flat planes typical of abstract art, just thick paint that is heavily reworked that seemingly comes from a deep source like molten lava pouring out of a volcano. My work reintroduces gestural marks that are three dimensional as a reference to the three dimensional language of perception that had had been part of representational painting prior to abstraction. The colors play with the notion that color can be appetitive as well as just optical and evokes flavors. Addison Parks uses the push and pull of Matisse’s color language merged with the iconic shapes of nature to express the vitality of organic form. His interests in the origin of abstraction in Matisse remind me of the work of Bram Van Velde the famous Dutch painter admired by Samuel Beckett.

As Art moves forward in its explorations it does not abandon earlier movements but, as it moves toward ever broadening horizons, it circles back to relive what was left behind. That is the strategy of the artists in this show. We create a sort of hybrid art by taking the language of abstraction and infusing it with the emotions of real life associated with realism.