Friday, August 22, 2008

there is this small piece in the encino studio. it's been on the wall for probably a year or so by now... for some reason i turned it horizontal (doesn't really work that way) but the big thing about it is the black band of curving motion that cuts thru it's middle. so it seems i've brought some of that back east with me. right now, about 5 pieces in motion have a variation of that gestural marking. it's rather liberating to load up a brush and drag it along that near circular form. back in the spring in california, i was drawing flowers-- caught up in how the charcoal carried along the paper surface following that very feminine form. was that the attraction?? probably always has been.... but yeah, it's found it's way into the large painting. we'll see where this goes.

ran into ed moses at the frank lloyd gallery in santa monica before i flew back. he's about 82 or 83 now. still making art. and most of it- good, maybe great... 

i don't really think he remembered me, but he said it was good to see me again, so thanks, ed, it was good to see you as well. keep it going...

Friday, August 15, 2008

ok, last night in LA... or the valley, as it were. a good early morning painting and then hanging in and by the pool with beers and my dad. then grilling steaks for my nephews birthday.

last night the artist, robert kingston came out and checked out the new paintings. since the time i've been here, i've danced around the new ideas and then revisited the existing body of work with 2 pieces left over from my last trip out here. so it's come full circle: the paintings to the drawings to the new paintings and how it all comes together as a whole... good words and good advice from robert as we drained can after can of mexican beer under the orange tree. i'm off the idea of following some plan and am back into the rush of confusion that usually gives me (to my mind) the tools to make good (or great) art. the last days out here are always tied up with bummed out feelings of leaving my family and the pool and the killer studio and my sculptures in the garden and the bamboo and the flowers and all the rest. at the same time i get that excitement once again of flying back to the city and the scene and the crazy life of making art in NYC.

a random thought:

i know when i go to bergamot station in santa monica that i will see some good painting. 

in NYC i hope to see good painting. more often than not, i end up pissed and pissed off...

a few more random thoughts:

*the art of southern california has (in general) become so geographically self-referential that it seems to deny any chance of true power or relevance to the world outside it's borders of highways, ocean and desert. everywhere you look there is the imagery of the beach, of suburban ranch homes, car pools, swimming pools, drive-thru fast food joints, film noir, hollywood retro, etc, etc... and the glare, that bloody glare of resin and the slick surface of "the shine..." now, granted, there is a huge audience for this in london, berlin, tokyo, etc. there are MFA candidates across the country who have never even seen a beach, let alone a palm tree, foaming at the mouth in an effort to get this very subject matter down cold. but consider this: imagine a new york scene populated by statues of liberty, coney island freak shows, taxis, hot dog stands, yankee stadiums, rockefeller centers, central park horse carriages, what have you. to be fair, you might see one of these examples now and again (sadly) but it's not the dominate strain of imagery and content. not even close. there is (and should be) a universal, historical and international mode of expression that is there for the taking. for art to succeed, in any media, it must reach for this language and come to terms with it.

*any writing on art done in LA (or surrounding areas) can't help but mention NYC, one way or another... there is the constant song of "ignored by...", "passed over by...", or even, "...recognized by...". the most glaring culprit is the magazine, Art Ltd. almost every profile, discussion, or announcement seems to fall into this trap.

*a random piece of criticism i read last week offered these tired, sagging cliches in discussing a group show: "exploring our perceptions..."; "challenging pre-conceived notions of..." and,"questioning our ideas of..."

except for a very few, this is what art writing has come down to.  everywhere...

*in LA, dennis hopper is considered an elder statesman of the art world.

i'm not trying to bitch, just checking things out and typing it... there is, quite undeniably, great, important art (painting) being made in LA, the inland empire, orange county and the rest. the sheer cultural weight of the region cements this fact as a given. at the same time, however, there is this incestuous cultural circularity within much of the art (good and bad) being made that ties it to the land and, to that end, the time of it's creation. simply put, this labels and dates the art involved in this practice. the phrase, "california artist" flows off the tongues of too many, too often to be healthy. i should know-- i've been labeled one several times, in various group shows i was fortunate enough to be involved in around the country. out here, there seems to be an apprehension at the thought of being a "regional artist". its an apprehension so dense and tactile you feel the tension rising up in conversations and writings before you hear it or see it. sadly and tellingly, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy for many artists, in many ways...

Friday, August 8, 2008

a bit after 10 at night... a very productive couple of days. i ended up pulling out the second virgin canvas this morning and now it's nearing some sort of completion. that makes 2 works that are looking strong and standing for themselves. maybe not... i've tossed myself into the void for this work. why not?? no sales of late, so fuck it. and there are the drawings back in brooklyn to back this adventure up. so now, the drawings have begat the paintings. and i must say, i'm very happy. for now. the work is rather harsh-- spontaneous and organic. as formal as the drawings seemed to me, these works are pushing the painterly edge. there is the formal structure, the geometry, if you will, but beyond that the space abutting the rectangular forms is violent with the rigor of paint and gesture. the drawings (at their best) were brought together from the formal structures as well as the incidental activity about the margins-- the dusting of charcoal; the fingerprints; the shots of liquid pigment... now that activity has been replaced by the trowel of gesso dragged across the canvas; the hammer of the brush; the harsh caress of sandpaper.

i sat under the orange tree, sipping a california red, trying to understand what i had brought about in these 2 or 3 days. i spent a bit of time photographing the work, but too much was lost to really make that count for anything. these works, as they stand, must be considered in the flesh. in general, as i've stated numerous times, abstract painting cannot be taken as fodder for reproduction or documentation. by the very nature of the medium, painting of an abstract nature (or, indeed, painting as a whole) must be confronted in the most intimate of viewings. sadly, thats not always possible.... regardless, i'm thinking that this work might be my strongest to date. it seems that the concerns of my preceding bodies of work are being addressed here and brought forward to a mature reasoning. so much of my past output has been refined and re-worked and refind again. i'll always stand by that work, but right now, this seems a more honest and athletic offering. perhaps the battle between influences has been decided, or smoothed out. there (has) is always the tension between the romance of pollock and the intellect of newman and (romance as well) rothko. much of the work on these paintings was done while they lay in the grass by the pool, outside the studio. the brush didn't hover over the canvas (dripping), it slapped down onto it and then moved accordingly, some of the trail left behind, some wiped away after its use had run dry...

under the orange tree, with a glass of wine, i mused that the most important thing to do is to actually look at a painting-- to see it and study it, bringing it into your conciousness. the reality of seeing a painting-- really looking at and seeing a painting, should be an active, wholly involved endeavor. the time must be set aside and relished... a quiet, profound slice of the day before or behind us, just looking... sitting and looking.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

back in california... late last night i checked out the studio to see what was left behind. a few 4 footers that were in progress and 2 untouched 5x4 canvases ready for heavy action. good.

i've decided that my time out here will be spent on only 1 of the new canvases. i want to take my time and see how far i push the acrylic, before hitting it with oil. i've knifed the underpainting on heavily in a few different reds and some gel medium to get a good body of surface built up and now it sits in the grass under the sun. next step will be a few layers of white gesso and then the real work begins....

yesterday, before the flight i spent some time with gary snyder at his gallery on 26th street. i told him about my intentions and he mentioned that sometimes the slow periods in one's career can be the most creative. the group show he has up is closing soon. ?abstraction. do yourself a favor and check out the work of tad wiley. tough, totemic work that shows a sure hand and a most vigorous intent.

now i'm gonna see if the paint is dry. or maybe i'll just have a beer first and float a while in the pool...

Monday, August 4, 2008

so it seems i've reached a cross roads of sorts... the drawings i've been so engaged in were birthed from my paintings of the last 3 or so years. now, it looks like a new body of work will come from the drawings (paintings based on the drawings)... i've done no practical work on this as yet, just thinking about it. but, i must say, this seems logical and rather sane. the margin of the paper becomes the margin of the canvas, etc. this can happen.

tomorrow i fly to LA. i've a few untouched canvases there in the studio... i guess this could start out there. out there as well as anywhere. yeah...