Friday, February 26, 2010

Stadium, 2010

Going into the 13th hour. Space heater on. DJ Shadow on Pandora. Paint flows like water. Color spreads across the room.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts on Walkabout

The above link takes you to today's Times article on recently deceased Chinese Prof Xie Zhiliu's preparatory studies and copies, which his daughter donated to the Met in 2005. Curator and Scholar Maxwell Hearn thinks the exhibition, which reveals Xie's commitment to copying Song Dynasty masters, will change Chinese scholarship, but as far as I know, copying was the mode of learning traditional techniques in China from time immemorial. Perhaps now given Westernization this does not apply, but copying was always done in Chinese tradition.

Somehow the article unlocks my preparation for the Dorsch exhibition Walkabout. I have been mulling the concept of Walkabout for some time, related to the concept of moving through a Chinese scroll as applied to my own travels, including the Fountainhead residency I am on now. Walkabout becomes a process of experiencing a new place and making work about that. The spiritual implication of movement, initiated in painting with explosive pours and subsequent travel through the (global) landscape, supplant walking the land with moving at speed from one place to another. Movement speaks to disolocation, query-leading to the loss of ego so crucial to the requisite emptiness that painting demands.

Within the permeable landscape one finds structures and places to rest--like the rock formations in Australia or the Scholars Houses in Chinese scrolls. My interest in the shape and metaphor of Parasol House, a rounded geometric structure (tower, awning, pavilion)--turned out to be the umbrella held over Buddha, which I discovered in MogaoKu (Dunhuang Caves) last year. Parasol is the ultimate provisional shelter, a halo turned flat; a hub of connection.

All I have known going into this Walkabout is that the Chinese plum blossom idiom is the visual foundation. In Miami, I have reconciled its shape with the old, gnarled seagrape trees that line Morningside Park's waterfront. Yet, I have wondered how to integrate this concept into a larger panorama, when stuck in the image-base of "tree."

Xie Zhiliu's drawings re-opened a dialogue of space that moves from depth to flatness--simultaneously page and landscape proper. Suddenly image becomes mark, unburdened from invention. I cherish Chinese mix-and-match, from clothing to calligraphy to landscape to faith. It frees me from invention to introduce gestures, colors and sketchbook images without an organizing narrative. Form is a signifier--not mine to empty--yet, without the burden of invention, it becomes spacious, inviting.

So today I foray into material, color and mark--not unlike the way I used to draw secret images inside the wallpaper of my childhood room--compressing space into layered non-narratives that are "seen at a glimpse" and made as a doodle.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


From Wickipedia (linked above):
Walkabout refers to a rite of passage where male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.[1] In this practice they would trace the paths, or "songlines", that their people's ceremonials ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds. Merriam-Webster, however, defines the noun as a 1908 coinage that refers primarily to "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work", with the only mention of "spiritual journey" coming in a usage example from a latter-day travel writer.[2]

Saturday, February 13, 2010


In the California Light and Space show that just closed at Zwirner, Peter Alexander's cast fiberglass wedge took me by surprise. Standing in front of it, the Pacific Ocean materialized right before my eyes: once again, I lived in LA, the light, the space of the ocean directly ahead.

The Alexander puzzles me. Its sensory capacity is overwhelming, similar to how Michael Taussig discusses anthropoligist Malinowski's perception of color in his book, Is Color Sacred? --yet, as an object, the wedge functioned similarly to a snowglobe. Once I found the illusion inside, would I be able to recover the initial moment of spontaneous perception?

As a painter in the age of sensory overload, I wonder about the emotional heat in illusion. I understand the need for distance; if imagery is proximate, readable; will it provide space for an object to be considered reflectively beyond the sensate? Even as I ask the question, I recognize its inherent Modernist foundation.

Gober's Charles Burchfield catalogue and the ancient Chinese painters' integration of spiritual, emotional and perceptual navigate the slippery terrain of temperature. As I write, waiting for pours of paint to dry on the first few panels of an epic landscape, my mind turns to my current location, Miami, and ways to express its impact in paint.

I begin to see my heritage as an American landscape painter, visionary division. Visionary sidesteps the binaries and gets to the core of immediacy.