Friday, December 24, 2010

New Year, New Work, New Faces

My painting Interlude is included in the second incarnation of New Year, New Work, New Faces, opening the second year of STOREFRONT gallery in Bushwick. The exhibition page is linked above; scroll the gallery's home page to read articles and reviews about the gallery, its founders and the artists who have shown there. STOREFRONT has quickly become a Bushwick staple, and its programming is excellent.

A benefit for Norte Maar, gallery co-founder Jason Andrew's community organization, will take place December 28 from 7 to 9 and the exhibition opens January 1, 2011, from 1 to 6 PM. Norte Maar sponsors local activities as well as summer 2010's Camp Pocket Utopia, documented earlier on this blog as well as AT World and Two Coats of Paint.

Wishing all a very happy 2011!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Joan Wickersham, Writer.

It is my pleasure to introduce writer Joan Wickersham, creator of Suicide Index, one of the best books I have ever read. Click on the link above to find out more about Joan and her work. Rarely has this reader experienced such searing honesty and elegant skill together and the combination, not to mention the content, is unforgettable. If you think a book about suicide does not pertain to you, take a look anyway. If you experience the human condition, there will be something for you in it.

Joan writes a column for the Boston Globe so once you finish Suicide Index and feel bereft, there is a way to read more.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New York Touchdown

I took a Chelsea sojourn between 29th and 23rd streets today:

29th St.
Steve di Beneditto at Nolan, two in particular, the Quarry and a smaller painting on the same west wall; beautiful pencil drawings in the back;

26th St.
Vivid, Female Currents in Painting - too many wonderful painters to name, curated by Janet Phelps (click on link to visit Shroeder, Romero and Shredder) and Pavers, those who pave the way...among the group of Pavers and Vivids: Judy Linhares, Carrie Moyer, Rosanna Bruno, Susanna Coffey; a particularly sharp Wendy White, more, more! You've got to go.

Lee Krasner at Miller, 26th - an ultimate Paver - oh, this show is good - the umber paintings are perfect, and there is a plummy, patterned pathway in alizarin crimson or similar, that is just delicious. Rhythm and pattern start here;

Philip Pearlstein at Betty Cunningham - saw this quickly but the beauty was on the back west wall, no head - just body and toy;

25th St.
Stephen Mueller @ Lennon, Weinberg- sucks sky-space into cups of colorful fades;

Hans Hartung  @ Cheim and Reid - like Krasner, a just-right historical show at this moment in abstract painting; makes me think about the typically western desire to 'construct' a painting offset by traditional eastern mastery of idioms that gives "bone" to immediacy.

Thomas Noskowski at Pace - of all the shows, this thrilled me to the marrow with its unbelievable freedom. Drawings, paired with paintings - informing each other - reveals the shifts in decisions and visual logic so natural to working in the studio - inspiring. (Image above, snapped from the Pace website - go see this show!)

23rd St.
Ellen Lanyon @ Pavel Zoubok - elegant, illustrative, fun-to-paint still life narratives accompanied by a tableau of the actual objects and lively collaborative book with poet / curator Lynne Cook

Julie Schenkelberg@ Asya Geisberg - not enough time to see but through the window - looks promising, a wild ramble through domestic rubble.

22nd St.
Keltie Ferris at Horton - touches of Mark Bradford and Chris Martin conflate in urban cityscapes, while having nothing to do with this painter at all! Expansive, spray-painted musings on painting and being.

Larissa Bates at Monya Rowe - she has done her homework on Indian and Chinese idioms, and her works in gouache show the gyrating structures in those works - and a delicate touch with the oils as well.

Look forward, after Barcelona and Cadaques, to view the rest of Chelsea more in depth. But am gratified and visually nurtured viewing the simultaneous history and presence of abstraction, today.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Wonderful Poet

I'm traveling through mid-December so posting will be light. The above link will take you to a poet I am currently reading, Jane Hirschfield. Her book Nine Gates is a must.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Musings on Relational Aesthetics

In a summer New York Times article on public sculpture, critic Ken Johnson wondered if, philosophical dimensions of art works aside, does the work visually compel?

This took me to Nicholas Bourriaud’s 1990 book Relational Aesthetics, which describes the evolution of aesthetic to social or philosophical frameworks in art works.  As visual recognition becomes faster and more complex, so that we see a tracking shot as a single image, our understanding of symbols, from keyboards to advertising, is immediate and comprehensive. Given the visual speed at which we absorb information, one might conclude, as Bourriaud does, that visual language becomes one trope among many, a factor in a confluence of factors that include social interaction and time as means of shared experience.  For him, social interactions and time re-invigorate the social aspects of viewing formalist artworks in ways that feel more relevant in contemporary life. For Bourriaud, the object is not necessary to establish a sense of shared connection.

I’ve given this some thought and conclude it is ultimately an academic argument that sidesteps the issue of criteria altogether in favor of a premise that expands the field of what art can be. The performative aspects of relational aesthetics recall Fluxus, Art as Life, Happenings, but the conceptual foundation is different through leveling  visual, social and philosophical frameworks.  Johnson concludes a preference for work that engages the eye beyond function - citing the visual symbolism of Tom Otternes-- but experience tells me art's presence influences people when it is in the world, no matter what. Connections are forged in different ways - how can they be any different than learning styles, or ways of thinking? They aren't, really. 

But, what interests me most in painting is the narrowness of its limitations and strictures; its unforgivability. What once seemed binding now points to freedom. For such a malleable medium, paint can become as complex as any other visual experience, real or filmed. To make a painting come alive, step away from its long, digested history into the present, remains compelling to do and see.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

NurtureArt Auction October 12, 2010

Click on above link to preview the works at auction. Please consider donating to this wonderful cause!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brooklyn Tornado path

Photos by Yiwen Chow.

Yiwen arrived Thursday in the late afternoon; around 5.30 we headed from Bed-Stuy to Tribeca for an errand before openings and the aborted attempt to attend a wine tasting on the LES. Upon disembarking the C train at Canal, we noticed it had rained. But the city's energy felt dense and congested beyond the usual sensory feast; traffic was stalled on Broome, gridlock everywhere and not a cab to be found. Small surprise: a tornado had just blown through while we were underground!

These images were taken Saturday on State St. in Brooklyn Heights.

The scale of the tornado effortlessly shifts perceptions of the landscape. Space reconfigures: the skyline is cropped of tree canopies, the streets shape a new flow of traffic to accommodate felled trees so that cars that once barreled down straight streets now carefully zig zag through leafy green barriers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ode to Lefferts Street

Enter Lefferts St. one block south of Fulton at Classon, where you'll find an old hotel with an awning that looks like an over sized bronze tongue. From there Lefferts runs three blocks and ends at St. Marks Place, which faces into it. Biking down the quiet lane, I imagine the London of Mary Poppins, with lives conducted behind dignified facades. The brownstones share the street with old, wooden houses and low-slung, renegade churches. Sycamores arch above, creating respite from the concrete, car shops and traffic on Fulton and Atlantic Avenues.

The transition from being in a place to drawing it--or tracing it, from sketchbooks, scrolls and photos, as I have been doing in the studio, adds a layer of experience upon returning. Brush pens drain images of color, leaving only line and contour to define them. Line simplifies and equates information, reducing image toward gesture. There is great pleasure slowly retracing images of a location, reliving memories and combining them with others. Multiple connections evolve densely layered constructions, rendering landscape just one element in a larger often abstract situation. Yet returning to a place I've drawn, I see it differently, after visually absorbing it.  Meaning returns, not through metaphor, but in the heightened awareness, the new and more familiar relationship. It's a little uncanny.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Goodbye, Summer Days of Bedford-Stuyvesant

As summer wanes, these images conjure the imaginary relief from heat on concrete experienced on sweaty tromps through the neighborhood. One thing that stands out overall is how alcohol-related businesses beckon customers with nostalgic touches of days gone by. An example is the Tip-Top Bar + Grill, which comes alive at nights when its signage alights. Red and green lights -- hybrid lantern and subway stop globe shapes-- twirl above the entrance; when lit, the beer sign allures as a pirate chest would. Such touches make the mundane magical, as do the cardboard displays in liquor store windows that juxtapose faded, corrugated cardboard backdrops with images of cruise ships and martinis.   

Beyond my front door heading to Fulton Street (I'm three doors in) is the unused construction shed that surrounds a building with wood-covered windows. No construction in sight. This same building was where the Claver Place Mens Club used to be. At night, the neighborhood men would gather (with some guest women on occasion) to play pool, drink beer and congregate under low-hanging lamps. Now, homeless folk argue and sometimes sleep under the construction shed.  I miss the men with the aviator glasses, who pulled up chairs outside of the club and chatted in the late afternooons before heading in to their pool game.  

I often look at the willow above Family Dollar and wonder where it grows from - an empty lot? Someone's back yard? It reminds me of Chinese scrolls that have been suddenly transported to another time and place.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bed-Stuy Mural

Two blocks away from where I live, this mural has become an integral part of my daily landscape.  Ol' Dirty Bastard's visage conjures wonderful memories of late night printmaking binges on a week-long workshop at Texas State University, San Marcos with Jeffrey Dell in 2005. As industrious students and Dell pulled screens into the night, the Wu-Tang Clan with ODB at the mike yodelled us on. I often stop and stare at the eyes in this mural, which brilliant blue unnaturally obliterates the pupils so the eyes float out a bit. The blue suggests a camera flash, offsetting the grim, overall illumination of  institutional photography suggested by the image.

The mural, originally painted by Victor Goldfeld in 2007, has been defaced and repainted twice. For more history and a UTube synopsis, check Goldfeld's site, linked above. For more background you can find an interview with Giacomo Fortunato and Vega on the blog TheCrypt; Fortunato wrote an essay for the online magazine Heeb, Ol' Dirty Lawsuit, in 2009.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rosanna Bruno's Studio

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.

On My Way to Rosanna's: WetSlipper

On my way to Rosanna Bruno's studio, I stopped at Recess, 41 Grand Street, to experience WetSlipper, a collaborative installation by Siebren Viersteeg and David Hardy under the moniker SpiritTours. (The above link provides hours and address.) It was unexpectedly wonderful to don trashbag pantaloons, climb up  a wooden ladder and whoosh out on Grand Street, where one could recover by viewing pithy sayings on tie dyed t-shirts and handmade signage. Though a large landing cushion had recently been removed by city employees due to encroaching on sidewalk space, sliding activities showed no sign of abating. A promising first day for the perfect pick-me-up in the dog days of summer...

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Way We See

Walking through my neighborhood, I fix on particular landmarks. The Franklin Medical Building, above, is one of my favorites for its mid-century design, compact scale, aqua panels and dated signage. Once likely a hub of activity, now slatted blinds hang loosely in the windows; the roll up remains locked.  I wonder what happened to the doctors who practiced there; who owns the building now, and its role in the neighborhood before closing. Often in my neighborhood, space assumes the linear shape of avenues lined by brownstones, undifferentiated in memory.

The article Culture Wires the Brain: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective, cited on Integral Options Cafe ( on 8/6/2010), proposes a singling of landmarks as cultural:

..."There is evidence that the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures versus individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavior. East Asians tend to process information in a global manner whereas Westerners tend to focus on individual objects. There are differences between East Asians and Westerners with respect to attention, categorization, and reasoning. For example, in one study, after viewing pictures of fish swimming, Japanese volunteers were more likely to remember contextual details of the image than were American volunteers. Experiments tracking participants' eye movements revealed that Westerners spend more time looking at focal objects while Chinese volunteers look more at the background.

...Park and Huang note that, "with age, both cultures would move towards a more balanced representation of self and others, leading Westerners to become less oriented to self and East Asians to conceivably become more self-focused."

The holistic perception in Chinese scrolls initially attracted me for the dissolution of binaries. In scrolls, space undulates with a "butterfly" perspective that shifts from length to depth. This leads me to reconsider drawing now, how parts fit into the whole by working from the whole at first. Same with my neighborhood, as it undergoes gradual but persistent gentrification.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Elisabeth Condon, Notes on a Landscape I, 2010, brush pen on vellum, 12 x 9 inches 

Mai Long of Slot Gallery (Sydney, Australia; linked above) offers the most gorgeous definition of space describing the exhibition Here and There:

"It was our desire to offer a space for these artists to explore the notion of ‘hyphenation’ that we all experience today, living and working between places, cultures and definitions; where ‘real space’ is a layered construction of memory, found object, acquired histories and an alert reading of physical space. Essentially, this project is an exercise in transmigration and translation."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tractors in the Landscape: Upstate New York

Traveling to Camp Pocket Utopia on Amtrak, I witnessed numerous construction sites. Typically the machines were at rest--lending an air of mystery to the upheaval that lay still as the train sped past. This conjured memories of driving from New York to Florida, when I painted toy tractors amidst gestures and splats to demarcate space and light. Later, in China, this work by Gui Xing took one step further: building a tractor from gestures. Here, two tractors in honor of the construction that surrounds us on the road.

What is considered “ink” painting? A conversation with Liang Quan

Click on link to read how Liang Quan references Chinese scrolls. The below footnote from the interview describes the way I think about and approach pictorial space in my work.

*Notes on the Southern School of Chinese landscape painting.
During the Ming dynasty (1555 – 1636), the theory of the Southern School of painting emerged in association with the concepts of Southern Chan (Zen) Buddhism. The artists of the Southern school are associated with the Buddhist concept of the individual self as the key to sudden and intuitive enlightenment. Their approach to the creative process of painting and the styles they adopted emphasized on direct personal experience. Paintings in the Southern style place importance on the development of a kind of abstract space, where there is no emphasis on layering or depth, and have largely influenced subsequent Chinese painting history.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Amanda Church Reviews my Dorsch Gallery exhibition Walkabout in ArtPapers 34:04

Click on link to view installation photos of Walkabout. I have also written about the ideas behind developing Walkabout in previous posts, archived January - March 2010 on this blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Musing on Painting: Field and Window

Jackie Saccoccio's exhbition at Eleven Rivington (press release linked above) expands the traditional 'window' of painting into three dimensions. Her large, tripartite painting and companion window drawing intersperse pockets of depth with flatness, amplifying the field-like space through which, starting with impressionism, we view abstraction.

At Saccoccio's opening it seemed impossible to discern the space created by the installation. My eyes hooked on details--plume-like pours of white, an area of purple peeking out through tangled glossy and matte blacks, a marking system of square-like shapes peeking out beneath a tumult of activity on top. Though the gallery press release explicitly states that the viewer becomes sandwiched, as it were, between the window drawing and three-panel painting, the scale kept it conceptual. The green-tinted window drawing collapsed street reflection and painting, merging multiple layers into a cacophony of visual and aural information that threatened to submerge any spatial discernment. I couldn't visually penetrate the holes in the green drawing's surface to descend into deeper space but remained perceptually between the window and room. In the press release, the neat encapsulation of Saccoccio's reproduced painting did not jibe with my experience of its internal scale, which augured an unexpected sense of flatness that took perception for a ride.

My eyes had encountered something unforeseen: a painting they did not understand. It was thrilling to feel so visually nonplussed in an age of image saturation that is so overtly legible. I returned to the gallery during regular hours to find the payoff that eluded a room full of people: painting about movement seen in passing, changing like light as one crisscrossed the empty gallery. Time and movement dictated ways the green tint on the window impacted and flattened the blacks, then in passing switched their depth; how the artist's signature square shapes blinked on and off as one traversed the painting surface, how divisions between canvases punctuated the flow of white transparencies slowly spreading over the painting's surface as if reflections or clouds: but decidedly NOT. Movement yielded stasis, fleetingly--before I, or the painting, uprooted again for another phase of space and perception. Image became dream: something experienced in memory, but never coalescing as solid form.

Resolutely flat then "opening the window," the painting becomes an experience of space both real and unreal, conjuring and dissolving the body simultaneously. The dimensional aspect literally layers perception while flat color flattens the layers, forming shifting fields before our eyes. Impressionist style, our eyes complete the work. But this is not impressionist painting; it is an aggregate of marks that (perhaps like Impressionism when new) demand to be assembled in new ways. Or--it is the world.

Saccoccio's work as well as that of Franklin Evans, whose piece at PS.1's Greater New York echoes her concern with dimensional abstraction (in his case, through the use of masking tape taken from his studio walls), inform my own interest in combining field and window. It comes as no surprise the artists collaborated on the gallery installation Blue Balls, first shown in SoHo and incarnated as Collision this fall at the RISD Museum. His work shares with hers the dimensional aspect; the dissemination of form in favor of layered impressions that coalesce into a greater whole.

My endeavor to collapse dimensions and flirt with the pictorial while resisting the takeover of literal form seems impossible: what would the logic of a painting be? How could... but multiple modes of seeing have become part of perceptual experience: can painting embrace it well perceptually, conceptually and materially? The work of these artists and Saccoccio's show re-invigorate the question.

check out Jackie's website:

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Consciousness Painter

This appraisal of my earlier work by Stephanie Lee Jackson (linked above) suggests the devolving role of form in my work.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

In Memorium: Louise Bourgeois and her Salon

When artist Jo Darbyshire was here from Australia, she visited Louise Bourgeois' Sunday salon with Melissa Levin of Toronto, who photographed the event.

Like so much else Louise Bourgeois initiated, her Sunday afternoon salons will resonate for a long while to come.

I first went in 2002--can't even remember the year actually. Trembling, I called on a Monday. Allo? a tiny, but sharp voice answered and asked if I was an artist. What kind of work did I make? What imagery? Come at 3, she said, and hung up. I'd been advised to bring good whiskey or excellent chocolate; these offerings accumulated on a large wooden spool/table and were passed around the room.

Lugging a 48 inch tondo of a Raggedy Ann Madonna holding a baby doll, not cognizant that she reviewed art on a 2 x 2 table, I ascended a rickety stairway to the room pictured above. It was packed with artists, curators, poets and singers holding sketchbooks, architectural plans and photographs. Louise Bourgeois sat behind the table and received every one, assisted by an art world friend who served as a facilitator. The process lasted seven hours. People began to drink whiskey and eat chocolate to keep going. When details caught Bourgeois' eye she'd ask pointed questions very directly. She interrogated a man who'd attached a rock to the middle of his painting, dismissing the desire to provoke without a broader intention (how I remember her viewing the work). That night, as people filtered out, she drew a perfect circle with a blue ballpoint pen on a sheet of sketch paper. You could feel her moving into the experience of making, fueled by the conversation and looking at work.

Two years later, the immediacy of her presence remained intact, though by this time procedures were more organized. The film camera rolled, the facilitator kept things moving. The room itself served as a lively protagonist, with curled and peeling articles and invitations from decades past festooning the walls. Its enclosure provided a space for artists to experience themselves in the greater sense as a tribe, a vital component in civilized life that was and would continue to be passed along through generations. No doubt this is attributable to Bourgeois' unflagging devotion to intuition, memory and experience as crucial to making art. The sense of lineage that crystallizes when artists share their work attests to art's power and constitutes the legacy of her salon.

Thank you, Louise Bourgeois.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Jungle of Signs, at Feature (Sunday, May 9, 2010)

From Feature Gallery's website (linked above):

A talk by Professor Michael Taussig (Dept. of Anthropology, Columbia University) who is one of the most innovative, distinguished and socially engaged voices in cultural anthropology. An interdisciplinary thinker and engaging writer, Taussig's work combines aspects of ethnography, story-telling, and social theory. An area of long standing interest, Taussig will be discussing aspects of Latin American ayahuasca-based shamanism and its historical interface with Western magic.

In 2007, visual artists Jesse Bransford and Karsten Krejcarek spent time in the city of Iquitos, Peru and the surrounding jungle. In a public conversation they hope to further elaborate on the experiences in relation to their art and art making in general. Topics will include globalization, adventure narratives, monkeys and telepathy.


Bransford and Krecjarek went first, describing their embodied experience of the jungle through the filter of ayahuasca, with a vibrant slide show behind them illuminating their trip and resulting exhibition of Bransford's work in the gallery. After them, Taussig, whose book What Color is the Sacred constitutes, for me, one of the first written accounts of pure visual experience, did not disappoint. He lectured for one hour straight, responding to the two artists' points with barely a reference to notes. He also played recordings of Amazonian rituals, amplifying and vivifying their accounts with his own. The experience as a whole embraced multi-valent, experiential intelligence that broadens rather than contracts horizons. My people!

Bransford mentioned Latin American modernism as possessing qualities that relate to his experiences in Peru, but did not link its purely visual language with unfiltered, drug-induced experience. When I mentioned this to his friend in the audience, he noted the colonial aspect of modernism under discussion problematized such notions. Taussig offered a way out, stating that images diagnose a situation and by visualizing it, change it.

When I think of multiple identities, experienced in the above travels as well as daily life, I do not see how pictorial logic can remain coherent and remain visually relevant to experience. Yesterday's talk confirmed this. "The magic of otherness" might lure, initially, but once dispelled in a direct encounter, complicates and expands comprehension, perceptually and conceptually. It may become part of us, and us a part of it, but what this actually looks like cannot already have been imagined.

Friday, May 07, 2010


I am here.
Outside my window, the tree is now bending with the wind and is a dry, but very deep green.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


On her website (linked above), Toronto-based Narrative Therapist Bonnie Miller writes,

"I love Calvin and Hobbes, and was sad when Bill Waterson, its creator, closed shop. He did it to pursue his other identity as a 'real' artist. I guess that, like many of us, Bill felt that he had only the time or energy to express one identity at a time.
...the assumption seems to be that the self is fixed, singular, and internal.

...There is another set of ideas about identity, floating around out there, that suggest these assumptions:

* that we each have many identities
* that these identities are 'performed' or played out, under different circumstances
* and that these identities are shaped and received by our social surroundings- the setting, the people in the setting, the expectations of those people, and how we react to those expectations."

In painting, diverse paint applications and collage-like composition become essential to envision space in visually convincing ways. Taking cues from traditional Chinese landscape, collage compositions jettison binary structures such as horizon lines or figure and ground. The dis- or re-integration of form, color and space that results imparts the psychological and visual effects of globalization and digitization.

Collage-like space emerges in 1960s Pop Art, reflecting then-current innovative technologies in science, space travel and foreign relations. Artists James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg, in particular, fractured space by merging diverse elements--Rosenquist, through the vehicle of sign painting, Rauschenberg, through chance. Both men studied Asian philosophy and inserted its teachings within the cacophony of images they experienced as culture.

Does geographic location dictates aesthetics, like perceptions defines the self? Immersion into a new space overwhelms and inundates--but does it eradicate aesthetic origins? The doubled state of being that results between an old and new self-in-situ can be bridged by diverse elements in painting. The end-game first postulated in postmodern recycling finds new possibilities in the unknown reconfiguring of the familiar.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

James Rosenquist, Painting Below Zero, p. 290

Frank Stella aid something interesting about the split-second nature of art. He said that the baseball player Ted Williams was the quintessential modern artist because of his fast eye--Williams claimed he could see the seams no a baseball as it came over the plate at ninety miles an hour. I want that instant punch when you look at one of my paintings, too--the immediacy of an ad or a billboard--but at the same time I want you to be able to read things in my paintings as they slowly rise to the surface. I'm often impressed by seeing something obliquely. That way I won't get tangled up with its meaning to the point that I forget the very thing that originally enticed me. I'll take it in in that initial flashing way, and then I'll take the time to look deeper.

What I think Frank meant is that seeing a painting is sometimes like love at first sight, something that doesn't have any barriers to it. With some paintings, you don't need words--or titles, either. You get it without anything intervening between you and your vision of it. Afterword, after you've absorbed that first visual blitz, you realize that there's something deep in that black area that you hadn't seen right away.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Guilin’s landscape is a phantasm of mountains misshapen through lost layers of bedrock, surrounding the Li River in a Seussian panorama. Cross-pollinating Guilin’s terrain with the wide-mouthed pipes, crosses and ladders of Brooklyn's rooftops, I feel sure the collision of exaggerated naturalism and human-scaled geometry will yield a living, breathing landscape in the spirit of Yuan Dynasty scrolls.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


A view of Walkabout: Stadium on the left, Field Notes on the right.

Field Notes is an eight-panel painting in the dimensions of Huang Gongwang's 1347-50 scroll Dwelling in the Fu'ch'un Mountains. I schematized his composition in flourescent blocks of color, projected images from the scroll in segments on the canvas and added sketchbook drawings of the Fountainhead residency, Miami, where I was working when I began the painting. To this compendium of images, I added sketches from traveling I-95 between Tampa and Miami, a Tampa convenience store, and paint itself in order to collapse color, form and gesture.

Field Notes refers to Michael Taussig's book What Color is the Sacred? and Fred R. Myers' Painting Culture. Both use the example of the anthropologist as artist, which I adapt to my practice as a painter. Taussig speaks eloquently of how color becomes all encompassing, a force that intoxicates the eye and heart. I consider this in relation to painting formless sensations that occur in the immersion of travel. It also relates to the formlessness of non-ego. I aim for such formlessness when I am painting to more accurately convey perceptions unbridled by habit. This happens naturally in new situations and places.

So the metaphor of anthropologist as artist seems apt for transcribing the world experientially. Combining "found" landscapes such as Gongwang's scrolls, my sketches, photojournalism, etc. pictorial space becomes a version of wallpaper--a repeating pattern with sudden ruptures of heightened perception. In graduate school, I remember developing large scale, unstretched canvases with "holes' in them through which new spaces emerged. They felt and looked too raw at the time, but with hindsight, perhaps the first harbingers for work I am making now.

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.