Monday, May 28, 2012

Thoughts on Artomatic

With three shifts completed and some additional touring of the show, I'm ready to compile my top 10 list for the latest installment of Artomatic. The work is generally better this time than in 09, which was better than 08. There are probably 50-60 artists making really good work that would fit in at better galleries. In fact, many of the participants do have representation at these galleries.

There is a whole lot of work that seems pretty close to being there but for me there was something missing. A large percent of this group made ambitious work that was competent but lacking either a level of polished craft or originality. There were so many works that were well crafted but the content was so obvious that I just couldn't get interested. The inverse was true with really good ideas not crafted appropriately to convey the content. In short these came off as good student work to me, regardless of age or experience of the artists.

I find it interesting that there are a number of artists making what I would consider commercial work such as landscapes and portraits that I found really nice, often compelling. Stuff I think I would usually walk right by. There is still good territory to mine in those fields.

As expected, the glass artists were some of the best in the show. A few will make my top 10 and a couple may not just because I don't want most of my list to be glass.

Art blogger Lenny Campello has noted that there seems to be less porn and nudity this time around (he also noted the quality of glass). There is still plenty there and, except for a few exceptions they do nothing for me. It is amazing to me just how unsexy some of this work is. I keep thinking, just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do it.

There is a lot of bad work too. I get the same feeling sometimes at Artomatic that I do with the opening rounds of American Idol. Don't these people have friends that say, "No way man- You're just not any good." Its interesting that music is such a part of our lives and there are certain qualitative benchmarks that most people understand like playing/singing in tune that we can easily provide that "No Way, Man" speech. But perhaps, since art is not as much a part of our everyday lives- at least on a conscious level, these qualitative factors are simply not understood by most. This may be why folks will look at a Pollock and think they could do it. There seems to be a need for some to express themselves and there also seems to be a ready and willing support group in the visual arts field (and I would add poetry). A lot of bad art could look like "Art" to the layman and I would guess the entire support network.

Another bad art observation, why would someone pay $110 dollars and spend time working shifts to write or post a bunch of crap on their walls.

Overall, its a pretty good showing- hell, a day in Chelsea will usually only net about 3-4 shows that were worth the time so having 50-60 in one place is quite good.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Artomatic Crystal City 2012

I am excited to have my Artomatic installation completed. This is the first time I will be showing the new non-objective pieces and I believe they work well in this space. There are 2 large paintings on canvas and 3 small paintings on wood panels. As noted in my statement, these pieces are related to musical composition. Though I'm a big fan of many musical genres, these paintings touch on the work of minimalists such as Morton Feldman, Terry Riley, Brian Eno and David Lang. The use of space, where notes are placed and where silence is left, is a crucial element for these composers. This was also my main concern with the representational paintings that I had been making for a couple of years. Earlier this year, I decided to explore this more directly by dispensing with imagery altogether.

Grace Finds Beauty in Everything (Eno) 70" x 60"
Grace Finds Beauty in Everything was one of the first two paintings I worked on in this new series. I was thinking of Brian Eno in putting this together. Eno is most known for his compositions such as Discreet Music, Music for Airports and On Land which he called "Ambient Music." He would often set up patterns and allow them to play out on their own. As an early proponent of synthesizers, he found ways to take these simple patterns, using electronic means to create music that was very organic sounding. This is clearly what I was striving for with this piece. The background uses a grid to set a pattern of many layers of very dark blues over which cloud-like shapes were painted, not with a brush but with my hands. It is important to note that I was not trying to paint clouds, just undefined amorphous shapes to create a middle ground. The red rectangles, which are also tied to the grid, were taped off and painted in layers until the red was quite opaque. The title comes from the lyrics to a U2 song, which happened to have been produced by Brain Eno.

I've Read Somewhere That Every Wall's A Door (Ligeti) 72" x 96"
I've Read Somewhere... is the most recent in the series. I had done a similar smaller painting that was more densely covered with the dashes. Here I was thinking of Ligeti and his microtonal style best known in his vocal piece Lux Aeterna which was used in Stanely Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here the grid is more pronounced with the open shape tightly locked to it. The dashes range from yellow-green to blue-green, at times bunching up and leaving more space in places. The title is from the song Hain's Point by the legendary DC punk band Rites of Spring.

Clouds Unbound By Laws (Etudes) 7" x 5"
The Etude pieces are painted on small wood panels. These are generally not based on a specific composer's work. In these, I tried out some techniques I have not used before. Clouds Unbound By Laws was an attempt to see if I could recreate a thick, juicy textured red on my palette. After laying down the grid work and ochre/naples yellow background, I literally mixed up the red on the surface as I would have on my palette. Again, a cloud-like shape emerged. I used the taped squares but then added a dot element using a plastic template. The template did not allow for a clean circle but I like the effect and left them rough. The title comes from a rare Bob Dylan song, Lay Down Your Weary Tune.

New Day Rising (Etude) 7" x 5"
New Day Rising began with taped off squares with alternating blends of quinacridone crimson and red oxide. Again the dots where painted using the same ineffective template. I had better luck getting a smoother edge with an ellipse template on the green and purple ellipses but decided to draw the orange ellipses and paint them freehand. The title is taken from a Husker Du song.

As He Rose Above Reason (Etude) 8" x 10"
With As He Rose Above Reason, I played around with my earlier thin layers on the grid shapes, adding in some direct hand painting. Then I applied some darker browns which I wiped away quickly leaving a splotchy residue in places. The ellipses were draw using a template then painted in three variants of red. The title is a lyric from one of Brian Eno's rock albums Before and After Science.