Heavy Handed Statement

Heavy Handed has been up for about a week now and I’ve been getting a really positive response, I thought I’d share the statement I wrote for the show and few more images.  Also, for the locals, the next issue of Seven Days will have an article about me and the show, so keep an eye out for that – on news stands Wednesday, November 20th, the same day as the reception for the show.

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These drawings and paintings began as simple cloud forms. Through the process of making, they magically began to push out body parts—hands, specifically, began to dominate the pictures. My own interest in hands increased during a trip I made to Italy this summer. Looking at the paintings of Duccio, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and de Chirico, I became interested in how their own hand was in the work, i.e., how they actually touched the paintings to make them, and how they portrayed hands in their paintings as expressive forms.

The process of making a painting holds a different meaning for me than the final image does, but I am interested in how those two elements work together to form a meaning larger than either aspect alone. For instance, my own touch has become important in the making of this work; the prints depend on how much pressure I apply to the paper as I work with the material to find the image. The characters represented in the work do a similar thing: they try to find their way, pulling from and penetrating the nothingness they are simultaneously confronted with and derived from. They blindly search for meaning, perhaps to no avail.

Maybe these hands floating through the unknown are my own illusory attempt to understand what it is to experience—and to find meaning—as a human being. Through making this work, I’ve often found myself questioning how much meaning I can and should be controlling, and in general, my inclinations have moved toward letting go of my heavy handed tendencies and relinquishing the control I might never have had in the first place.

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Heavy Handed

SONY DSCI spent yesterday installing my latest exhibition, Heavy Handed at the Vermont Studio Centers’ Red Mill Gallery. It’s open from November 11th through November 28th, 2013. The reception will be held on November 20th, 7 pm. This will be my final show at the Vermont Studio Center. I will  be saying farewell as I’ve decided to move back to New York City in January. Below are some images from the install.

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Control and Meaning

I’ve been doing a lot of mono-prints lately, and I’m excited about them, but my attempt to re-imagine the ideas I’m creating in the drawings/mono-prints continues to stifle me when I try to make new paintings.  The process I’m using with the prints is casual, spontaneous, simplified, and has a built in element of surprise which doesn’t allow me to overly control the work. When I’m making the prints I don’t worry about getting it right I just draw them with little expectation of what they need to be. It feels okay if they’re throw-aways, I can always make another one.  When I switch to painting though, I end up illustrating the idea instead of making/finding  it – the process doesn’t mediate in the same way that making the prints does.

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I’ve always had this underlying, nagging feeling that I need to give meaning to what I make. In talking to my friends about this a lot of them come from a few opposite viewpoints than me. They don’t feel like they can necessarily control the meaning, that the viewer can find the meaning, that things already have meaning without me interfering… it’s not that I don’t agree with them, but I struggle to know where I fit within that. If I’m making something I’m controlling it to some degree, where or how do I set that dial?

Right now, at least in the paintings, it feels like I’m controlling too much. In the images themselves I seem to be placing myself in this position of being god while also knowing that I probably have less control over my life than I’d like to think.  There’s this impossibility of having control over things and yet this grasping to gain the things I want to be true. One interpretation I have of this is that this is me painting, where I am god over my own work but there is still something else at play, something I inevitably don’t control. I used to find it curious when reading greek myths that although the gods had a lot of power and control over things they still always seem to have trouble, things don’t necessarily go as planned.

IMG_1765 IMG_1764I keep turning to ways I might change my process or material. The idea of switching to acrylics has dawned on me a few times – it seems that as a material it would be more spontaneous. I resist switching though (which is probably a sign that I should try it)  – I don’t have a particularly good reason for this.  I’ve always liked that oil has a sensual quality that relates to the body, and how it works as a material – but those reasons seems less and less important as time goes on.

I also think that it might not just be a matter of materials, but more a shift in attitude. I can only move through life finding things that fulfill my time, and it doesn’t really matter what those things are, just as long as I find them important or interesting, i.e. have meaning to me. Perhaps I need to have faith that those things that I fill my time with, and find important, will be important and interesting to other people as well.

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Jinx!

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New York & Boston Fall 2013

I went to New York last week and have come back to Vermont feeling refreshed, quickly re-immersing myself in the studio.  Before I left, my productivity in the studio was dwindling, my time in Rome this summer was becoming more distant and I wasn’t able to draw as much inspiration from the time I’d spent there. When I returned from New York I started to think that visiting places to refresh my studio practice should just be a consistent part of my process.  Now I’m thinking that it’s time for me to move back to New York, but imagine living there might require that I retreat to Vermont now and again to refresh myself.

SunshineMy friend Giordanne Salley put me up during my stay.  We were talking while I was looking at this painting in her living room.  I chuckled to myself when I realized that the bird in the paintings was looking back at me through the mirror in it’s cage.

I saw a bunch of museum shows.  The Balthus exhibition at the MET and the Janet Cardiff piece at the Cloisters really stood out.  I also saw the Magritte show at MoMA, he’s never been one of my favorite painters, but there were still some things I found interesting.

drawing-room 0929F_BALTHUS4_BD_40P the-mediterranean-cat-1949Balthus (above)  has always been a painter more in my periphery, I’ve never paid too much attention to him, but I like how he builds a painting, there seems to be a tension contained in the specificity of how he pieces shapes together. Everything is very carefully considered.

Katherine Bradford is another painter who uses shapes in a particular way that creates a certain tension.  She was our last visiting painter at the Vermont Studio Center, so I had just met her before I left for New York and was able to catch her current show, Small Ships, at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, which was really great.  (see below)

DSC_0796-1cardiff6I highly recommend seeing Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet now in the cloisters, this image doesn’t really explain the experience. Each speaker is an individual recording of a member of a choral group, the sound is very layered and you can experience the piece many different ways.  I listened to it all the way through multiple times and found that if I closed my eyes it was almost as if I was absolutely alone in a void and the only piece of earth left were the spots on the floor where my feet touched the ground, at other moments I would open my eyes and find myself feeling shocked by the hard reality of the room.  IMG_0954 tumblr_msju6sDmfM1s2nkc5o1_1280These two Magritte pieces above I found particularly interesting, maybe because they’re playing with some ideas that have been coming up in my own work recently.

n36holjz5u8b7bfr4ev3One of the main reasons I visited New York was to support Dusty Boynton at her opening at Denise Bibro Fine Art. I’ve been assisting Dusty for the past year in her studio, and in that time we’ve become friends. She has a kind of energy and outlook on life that I really aspire to.  I like how the piece above finds a full kind of mass through gesture, and how the figures hauntingly stare back at you.

PB07_813My friend Patrick Berran has a solo show at Southfirst Gallery in Williamsburgh. It’s been interesting to see his paintings evolve over the two years that I’ve known him.  When I first met him the seductive color fields he was painting dominated the foreground, but now it’s like he’s flipped the images so we see the under side – maybe some kind of decayed structure that the color fields hang on.

After New York I took a quick jaunt over to Boston to visit the ICA.  I saw a piece by Alex Hubbard who I fist discovered at the 2009 Whitney Biennial.  His “moving paintings” really fascinate me. I love how his work can take the world we know and turn it back into abstraction, a chain saw or a pile of bones can be pulled out of it’s own context and just become a mark.  Below is a still image of the video piece, this is another instance where you have to view the work in person to really experience it.  Blart-CLICKMy main reason for visiting Boston was because my friend Steve Locke is having his first museum exhibition at the ICA which I was very glad to catch.  He does these grotesque portraits of floating heads with their tongues sticking out that challenge certain traditions (see below). The way he hung the show also seemed to be questioning traditions of painting and got me reflecting back on the importance of curation.  the-rising-up-624x667 content_Steve-Locke-A-Brief-HistoryLastly I was really excited to find out that Amy Sillman’s retrospective was also up at the ICA, she’s a killer painter, and it was really interesting to see the evolution of her work over the past ten years or so.  I was really drawn to the later work (see below).

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Venice Biennale 2013

This past weekend I was able to make it to Venice to view the Venice Biennale for two days.  This was the first time I’ve ever gone so it was exciting just to go, but I thought it was also interesting to view art from a more international perspective and not through the filter of living in the states or being surrounded by a particular school of thinking. That said, there were also some pieces that commented on Biennales format as too rigid, where each pavilion/country is separated and doesn’t represent the international/global interactions that are happening within and amongst all countries.  Alfredo Jarr’s piece Vinezia, Venizia flooded a scaled down model of the pavilions as if asking for a rethinking of how the pavilions should be structured in relation to our global society.  The German pavilion also commented on this idea by inviting international artists to show at their pavilion opposed to just choosing German artists.

Being chosen as the one person to represent your country in art seems like it would be totally overwhelming and somewhat ridiculous, but perhaps it’s impossible for us as humans to absorb it all anyway, and even with just one person representing each country the Biennale is a lot to take in.  That seemed like a major theme of the Biennale; with our over abundant access to information how do we organize it in a way that is absorbable on a human level?

To me, in the recent past, it feels that our initial reaction to this bombardment of information and not knowing how to process it was a feeling of being overwhelmed and reacting flippantly through the use of irony, but after seeing the Biennale I get the feeling that this trend seems to be fading, as a lot of the work I saw seemed to be looking towards spirituality, awe and imagination as ways to deal with our existence. Below are a few of the works I found particularly interesting.

Da Vinci by Yuri Ancarani for me was kind of a jaw dropping film.  I might vote it one of the most stand out things at the Biennale. For me it felt like more of an experience than a film with it’s visceral visual and auditory command of scenes from a laparoscopic surgery. I actually feel a little bad showing this bootleg youtube version because it really doesn’t do it justice.

In terms of painting Maria Lassnig was the highlight.

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Unfortunately I’m having trouble finding some of the video’s I’d like to post here.  One was a video by Ed Atkins called the Trick Brain (this is only a link to the script of the film), and the other was an animation by Leon & Cocina called Los Andes.

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Summer Selections at Denise Bibro Gallery

Figure Head 1, 11"x14", oil on panel, 2013

Figure Head 1, 11″x14″, oil on panel, 2013

I’m currently still in Rome, but in the mean time I’m in a group show at Denise Bibro Gallery which opens tonight.  The painting above is one of four paintings that I’ll have in the show.  Unfortunately I won’t be at the reception tonight, but I’m very excited to be in the exhibition, I plan to catch the tail end of the show when I get back to the states before it closes on August 10th.  I hope you get a chance to check it out.

Denise Bibro Gallery is located at 529 West 20th Street, #4W New York, NY 10011.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11AM to 6PM.
Open by appointment August 13 – September 4, 2013  212-647-7030

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