Thursday, January 27, 2011

Briefest of Updates

I'm officially accepted into the ranks of honors candidates! Woo! And after this weekend, I'll have an exciting visual montage to post (we have an assignment to stay working in the studio for 14 hours straight. I'll be taking a picture of my progress every hour, and you'll get to see the results) I also started one of the 8x5 canvases, which you'll probably get to know pretty intimately in the 14 hour progression...Until then, here are some pictures of a drawing I made on Monday:

It's white paper layered with transparent drafting paper. Exciting, no? More soon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Honors Review

I just had my Honors Review, which means I stood in the gallery in front of the full studio faculty and explained the progression of my work/ where I'd like it to go, in the hopes that they will let me be a candidate for Honors. It was really fruitful--they gave me a lot to think about. In the interest of remembering, I'll post the notes from the review here:

Me: Explained how I'm sort of in two places at once, but with the same concentration--xacto drawings; tactile paintings, both involving shapes, layers, intensity. Goal is to somehow bring those the two together. Told them how I'd made 3 large 8'x5' canvases, how one is designated for the potential touchable painting idea (explained/described)

JL: Thinks it's asking a lot for people to touch a painting--painting especially because it's so ingrained. Painting is tactile with out having to touch it--you don't have to touch it to experience it--it's enough to want to touch them. Not sure if breaking that particular barrier is in the particular concern of painting

TF: Likes that the same relationship to paper can be seen in relationship to paint--useful and informative--feed off of/ into each other. Also likes assemblage woodcut pieces--like the tip of a great explosion. Also liked consideration of install

SD: Asked if I've thought about different scales--4x8 sheets of plywood--see where that goes.

Me: Told about crates of excess woodcut shapes, desire to gesso them, build them in a way that allows them to climb and creep around over the wall

SD: Liked decision to hang pieces at different levels--freedom

AG: Idea of transformation/ touching paint/ audience participation: agrees with Justin, encourages me to be primary participant/ be the one to transform the painting--eliminate restrictions and initial impulses. Just think about transformation as continuation of what you're doing. Book is testament to how, when focused within limitations (the lightness and subtlety that comes out in those compositions), it can succeed. Paint from that. Different premise--don't be distracted by pre-determined thing. Last year--staying with it transformed. Dwell (move the red, move the orange, find the shape)

SD: In the same way as breaking out of the square, think about breaking away from the wall--cutting open, opening up into the space

JL: Suggested book: High Times, Hard Times about work in the 70s that questioned a lot of the same things--forgotten for a while, but feels relevant again. Interrogating painting--interviews about process/ coming off the wall

SL: More tactile, atmospheric than older work--painted plane was more impenetrable. Likes areas around big globs--like landscape, dissolving into shimmering distance. Would be interesting to touch. But what if you focus your interest on touch, and the painting ends up not looking good? Willing to compromise visual aspects? Some paintings you want to eat, but you don't do that. Seductive quality is the tease--look but don't touch--they do incite the desire

GC: Work coming out of the fact of the material? Book is a physical fact--cuts into material generate the object. Dilemma=positive/negative space. Physical fact sustained--enough ordinary/ extraordinary. Making decisions external to the painting, then back

TF: Suggested Mark Bradford at ICA--video: sanding/ peeling back paper

JL: Interested in what Graham was talking about. Forming shapes, creating support, but isolating surface from support--could get too collagey, not sure of the solution. Woodcut pieces end up looking folksy

GC: Decorative almost

JL: Brought up Supports/Surfaces: Parisian group of artists (André-Pierre Arnal, Vincent Bioulés, Louis Cane, Marc Devade, Daniel Dezeuze, Noël Dolla, Toni Grand, Bernard Pagés, Jean-Pierre Pincemin, Patrick Saytour, André Valensi and Claude Viallat). Questioning boundaries.

AG: Cover of book is solution to painting

So tomorrow they have a full departmental meeting (with Art History) to decide who will be eligible for honors. I'll find out on Wednesday (fingers crossed!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Musical Compositions Could Parallel Painterly Compositions

I just learned something that I've been intending to learn about music for a long time now. I've noticed that when I listen to certain songs that I would characterize as melancholy, I hear a particular pattern to the way the sounds progress that distinguishes them from songs that would make me feel happy. Not being a student of music theory, I had no idea what this pattern could be called, and equally few ideas as to how to even ask what it might be called for fear of just sounding insane ("You know that thing that some songs have that make them feel sad? What is that called?"). Luckily, one of my roommates is knowledgeable about musical composition, and completely by chance, helped me determine that the pattern I was hearing is sustained chords resolving in minor. She explained that major chords (and their simple cousins, power chords) generally make for the happier, more upbeat songs, whereas minor chords tend to generate angsty, frustrated, uneasy sounds. When you mix them up, implying the hope of a major chord, only to resolve in minor, you get melancholy. (Example: I perceive Neutral Milk Hotel's "Two-Headed Boy Part 2" as more emotive than "Two-Headed Boy" because Part 2 resolves in minor, whereas "Two-Headed Boy" is in major--it's a serious achievement for me to be able to finally vocalize that difference)

How does this apply to visual art, you ask?

Well, after being enthralled by my new-found discovery for several minutes (going through my sad mood playlists and identifying that indeed they all resolve in minor, in truly fascinated geek fashion), I then naturally started thinking about painting, and how important music is for me when I paint. I often find that the kind of music I listen to when I paint ends up affecting the kind of painting I end up doing that day. So I thought, "what formally in painting gives me the strongest sense of feeling?" Color of course. So what would be the relationship between colors and chords? I think I'd associate warm colors with major chords and cool colors with minor chords. If this is an accurate association, one could conceivably paint a painting that resolves in minor! I'm ecstatic about this!

Think about it: If you wanted to get really technical, you could assign a different color to every chord and just paint the composition of a song, ideally producing the same emotional effects in the viewer of the painting as the song gives its listener. You could listen to a song, hear the progression of the chords, and be able to harness the feeling you get from that musical composition, translating it into the visual by means of color! Did Rothko know about this?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Last-Minute Recollections

So I'm back in Boston, and before classes start up again, I want to mention some of the note-worthy art experiences I had over break.

I took a day trip to New York to go back to MoMA (last time I only had 20 minutes to see the Ab Ex show before I had to catch my bus). SO glad I did! The sheer quantity of paintings in that show is astounding. During our journey through the show, my roommate asked me which was my favorite abstract expressionist, and I must have given her at least five different answers. "Oh man, JOAN MITCHELL, OK, she's my favorite"..."Oh no wait! Sam Francis..." "Mmmmm, DeKooning"...""OH GOD A ROOM OF ROTHKOS!!!! Alright, Rothko might really be my favorite..." And so on for a seemingly endless stretch of rooms. Endless in a good way-- it could have gone on forever, and I still would have been captivated. (The Ab Ex show is up until April 25th, so you have plenty of time to go and be seduced by paint. Just...please don't be a tool and pose obnoxiously in front of the Barnett Newman...we witnessed that happen, and it's the only time I've ever felt really happy about someone being yelled at by the guard)

Also at MoMA that day, we got to see On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, which incorporated a pleasing array of media. There were many fantastic pieces by many amazing artists (our friend Ms. Schneeman even made an appearance), but the one that stood out most for me was actually the one at the entrance, Just a Bit More by Ranjani Shettar, which consisted of pigmented beeswax balls held together by tea-dyed thread. I got yelled at for trying to take a picture, but here are some photos someone else was allowed to take, brought to you via the interwebs:

I stared and walked around this piece for about 15 minutes (true, I was waiting for my roommate to return from the bathroom, but it was still pretty damn captivating regardless). I started to see the slight variations in color that created a sort of journey for the beeswax balls, which started to feel like matter or water particles, or networks, or webs. I really really wanted to touch it or duck under and stand amongst them. I'm pretty sure I would've gotten more than yelled at if I'd done so though...(You can see On Line through February 7th)

Oh yeah! On our way upstairs to see On Line, we were distracted by the sound of piano music. It turned out to be Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on "Ode to Joy" for a Prepared Piano, a performance piece by artist team Allora & Calzadilla in which hired professional pianists stand in a hole cut in the center of a grand piano and play the song upside down and in reverse, while simultaneously roaming around through the crowd of onlookers (the piano is on wheels). It was very funny, and it certainly caught the attention of essentially everyone in the museum. I took a picture of the crowds lining the stairwell balconies, looking down on the performance:

and here's a visual of the actual piano-playing:

On Friday, I went with my Mom to the PMA to see the Michelangelo Pistoletto show, which was a pretty excellent retrospective. My favorites were the mirror paintings that implicate the viewer as a victim/ co-conspirator in the action:

Man Shooting



and Orchestra of Rags:

For this piece, tea kettles are surrounded by walls of rags and covered with a layer of Plexiglas. When they go off, their trilling disrupts the space, and the condensation from the steam creates shapes on the Plexiglass. We were lucky we got to see it in action--the guard said they only turn the kettles on twice a day!

There's also an auxiliary installation devoted to Pistoletto's work with Cittadellarte, an organization that he founded in Biella, Italy in 1998, which focuses on projects related to art, economics, education, politics, ecology, and communication, fueled by his belief that "art is at the center of a responsible transformation of society". The separate gallery features his Love Difference Tables, which have traveled to cities all over the world in order to invite discussion and collaboration with various other institutions.

The PMA has been co-sponsoring various events and worshops in conjunction with the exhibition. You can read all about it at the PMA's website. So I guess that kind of makes up for not being allowed to touch Structure for Talking While Standing Up or Lunch Painting...

(All things Pistoletto end tomorrow! Go see them NOW!)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The List, Installment 7: Performance

Happy New Year!

OK, today we're gonna look at some of my favorite artists that can loosely be gathered under the rubric of "performance". As promised, I'm kicking it off with...

Carolee Schneeman:

Meat Joy, 1964

Interior Scroll, 1975

Carolee Scnheeman is a feminist rock star. The woman rolled around in a raw meat orgy and pulled a scroll of text out of her vagina, which she read aloud to an audience. I repeat, rock star.

Marina Abromović:
Rhythm 10, 1973

Imponderabilia, 1977

Rhythm 0, 1974

Anyone lucky enough to have attended "The Artist Is Present" at MoMA last spring knows the incredible scope of Abromovic's thought-provoking work. I unfortunately didn't get to go, but I would so have loved to walk through the reproduction of Imponderabilia (not sure I would've battled the crowds to sit across from her, though having a staring contest with Marina Abromović is certainly among the more awesome potential museum experiences that I can think of). Rhythm 0 is one of her more disturbing pieces. It's strikingly similar to Yoko Ono's Cut Piece (1964), which I talked about in an earlier post, but without the direct command of "cut" (and with the addition of a loaded gun...)

Adrian Piper:

Catalysis Series, 1970/1

My Calling (Cards) #1 & #2, 1986-90

Adrian Piper's work is great because it manages to be witty about the discomfort it causes. For her Catalysis series, she basically just did weird things in public (plugging her mouth with a sock, covering her clothes with wet paint, etc.) to gauge people's reactions to perceived abnormal behavior, or to "the other". Her Calling Cards are particularly great, and pretty self-explanatory. Did I mention she has a Ph.D. in Philosophy?

Joseph Beuys:

I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965

7000 Oaks, 1982-87

Joseph Beuys is a special idol of mine. I wrote a paper about his work a while back and am just in awe not only of his physical artworks, but of the scope of his ideas. First of all, he has a pretty epic mythological origin story that definitely trumps the vast majority of other "genius" artist cultivations (I'm lookin at you, Matisse...)--his involves being nursed back to health by Tatar tribesmen when his plane was shot down during World War II--according to his account, they wrapped him in animal fat and felt. Subsequently, he created works incorporating alchemical materials, believing that the materials he was healed with could invest his art with the power to heal the world. So clearly I adore him. I Like America and America Likes Me deserves to be explained: In May of 1974, Beuys flew to New York, and was rushed via ambulance to the gallery (wrapped in felt of course) in which he spent 3 days living with a wild coyote. Yeah. When it was over, he was rushed back to the airport via ambulance, thus leaving America without experiencing anything other than his communion with the coyote. Later in his career, he developed the concept of "social sculpture", regarding the whole of society as one great work of art. 7000 Oaks was a project for which Beuys (as the title suggests) planted 7000 Oak trees, accompanied by pillars of basalt, both in Kassel, Germany and in New York (you can still see them on West 22nd St. between 10th and 11th Avenues--they're really beautiful, and the basalt pillars are nice to touch)

These works all incite deep thought, visceral reactions, sometimes even physical interaction/ participation. They reveal significant things about the nature of people and of art. They're not just about the act--they're about the reactions and thoughts the actions provoke. Chills, people, chills.