Wednesday, November 10, 2010


What remains of painting?

What remains of twentieth century painting in the twenty-first century?

What remains of me as a painter?

Twentieth century painting, as I imagine it, drew from sources beyond
the European tradition -- prehistoric sources, non-Western "primitive"
sources, the art of the mentally ill (and other outsiders), and the
art of children, and anywhere images are found, or anywhere images
found us, in daily life -- advertisements, technical illustrations, etc.
We expect the digital revolution to bring about serious changes in the
way we think about art and the way we make art, and maybe do away with
the category "art" altogether, but we can't know much about these
possible changes because we are twentieth century analog people
stepping into the twenty-first century digital world. We are a remnant
of the old era.

I am a painter, and I studied painting and got a degree in painting
and I continue painting, although I have rarely exhibited my
paintings, and have even more rarely sold my paintings. I also am
involved in writing, self publishing, spoken word performance, etc.
But I keep painting and I keep looking at paintings and studying
painting. Painting remains, and I remain a painter.

The idea for my project was to do a reality show, to show my reality,
or mediate my reality using digital media and social media. I claim
that anyone using social media, or a blog, or YouTube, or Twitter, to
present their artworks and their artworking, are producing a show of
reality situated outside of the old, twentieth century art world
institutions. I thought it would be funny, and maybe enlightening if
someone produced a low budget reality show that followed a group of
artists as they prepared for an exhibition. The production would be
something like the guerrilla video journalism of James Kalm, but
taking up the sort of institutional criticism concerns addressed by
Powhida and Dalton, and would culminate in a show where the work would
be shown and offered for sale. Hrag thought this idea could be
modified so that it would fit into a show he was planning about
artists who use social media. My original idea, which involved someone
with a camera (maybe Kalm) following a group of artists (not including
me) became a project in which I would follow myself with a camera and
blog about my studio practice and attempt to make a piece for
#TheSocialGraph. My main concern was that I would make an art object
that I was happy with and that would "stand on its own" as an art work.

This year I have been making small pieces I call three dimensional
drawings and I figured that whatever I made for Hrag's show would be
related to those in size and conception, but when I saw the exhibition
space and talked to Man Bartlett and Nate Hill my feeling changed and
I imagined a big canvas banner with a painted text constructed out of
my word games. I was going to buy two or three yards of canvas, but I
found a ten foot remnant of canvas and decided to use that to make a
vertical scroll. I changed my mind again and thought it would be more
interesting to work with the ragged L shape of the remnant. As I was
painting the series of word games that would be the text, something
happened that I was barely aware of. I became interested in the
formal problems of the canvas and the painted text began to turn into
a painting.

After the formal announcement of the show came out and I saw who else
was participating, I got the jitters. The Devil, they say, never lies
in a ditch, and he put doubts in my head. Some of these people are
pretty well known and respected painters. I imagined these respectable
artists looking at the big strange thing I was making and telling Hrag
it was an abomination, an embarrassment. I thought my painting would
be rejected, and excluded from the show. When Hrag said he wanted to
come over and look at "the projected work" for the space, I thought he
might veto it and I'd have to do something else. This would be an
interesting plot development in the narrative of my own reality show,
but would really bum me out, because I like my painting and I want to
show it to people. So, tonight I'm taking the canvas, as is, to
Outpost, and I'll either hang it or leave it rolled up and leaning
against a wall. I will continue to blog about it, and share on
Facebook, and hope people will continue sending their comments, pro
and con, to me. I might continue to work on the painting when it is at
Outpost, and the 9 options I listed are still under consideration, as
well as other possibilities.


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