Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Today I visited painter Rosanna Bruno, whose work I have known, and followed, since she first arrived in New York in 1993. She showed me ten or more new paintings since her 2009 John Davis Gallery exhibition, linked above (download the pdf from her name on the gallery menu). These paintings are supple and light. Gestures adorn raw linen surfaces, creating web-like structures to visually climb without the guarantee of gravity.
I'd been thinking about Wm. Powhida's passionate outburst regarding 'canned radicalism' on his blog post* Works of Art. It got me thinking on the possibilities of what is radical in art today, what could be, particularly in painting. Rosanna's painting proposed a redefinition of priorities, in that they do not appear radical in the way that statement-making approaches (ie. Warhol, Schnabel, Halley and Hirst) might. Her paintings inch forward, harnessing the usual suspects--gesture, texture, chroma, scale--to wrest unsettled, fractured spaces. They are forged in the crucible of history, acknowledging and trespassing it within those terms. Accordingly, the dance between translucent grounds, delicate swipes of the brush that hint at form, and gestures full of body and movement leads us to...
...such ambiguity between figure and ground that prolonged looking induces vertigo, akin to walking a tightrope. Ropy gestures offer illusions of security and we climb on out, before realizing it's all gesture...we see this with our eyes--we are caught in a labrynth of gestures with no certain place to go. Forked-tongued gestures and washy grounds intermingle and don't define what's on top and beneath. They establish spatial relationships promptly jettisoned for flickering and staccato rhythms.
Is perception radical?
Agnes Martin, Writings, p. 71:
"It is so hard to slow down to the pace where it is possible to explore one's mind. And then of course one must go absolutely alone with not one thought about others intruding because then one would be off in relative thinking."
In this epoch of saturation, is such an endeavor possible? Or is the importance of individual perception historical?
Agnes Martin, Writings, p. 89:
"When interest in graphic art wanes I suppose it is possible to imagine its slipping out of sight but I do not believe in that possibility.
My interest is in experience that is wordless and silent, and in the fact that this experience can be expressed for me in art work which is also wordless and silent...
...We perceive - We see. We see with our eyes and we see with our minds...
...Perceiving is the same as receiving and it is the same as responding. Perception means all of them."
and for this reason, she proposes that, "If we can perceive ourselves within the work - not the work but ourselves when viewing the work then the work is important. If we can know our response, see in ourselves what we have received from a work, that is the way to the understanding of truth and all beauty." (italics hers).
Thinking with one's eyes can be radical, though not perhaps in ways we have come to expect radical to behave. The ability to become visually dislocated while contemplating an object is pure kinesthetic power, restoring bodily awareness through sight. What this changes is perhaps nothing, or everything.