Current Abstractions

Over the last 6 months I’ve been moving back into some more serious abstract paintings. Since beginning my education, these periods of return to non-representational, non-observational work have been important to me. Usually, this work is a release from more intensive perceptual-process paintings. Often it doesn’t resolve into a clear body of work, yet once every 3 or 4 years it does.

Much of the new abstraction is directly related to three distinct events that have been taking place in my studio. First, I’ve been collaborating with Joel T Dugan on a series of works that, while mostly resolving into representation and pictorial symbolism, often begin with evocative surface and color explorations. Secondly, I’ve found myself contemplating the kinds of decisions my daughters make when they work in my studio alongside me. They have none of the philosophy or theory behind making art, and so they offer a kind of pure aesthetic and material reactivity that I find refreshing and exciting. Lastly, I have been obsessed with a print made for a Penguin edition of the book The Cloud of Unknowing. The print was apparently made by artist Diana Bloomfield around 1961. Ms Bloomfield, who died in 2010, was a very successful printmaker who worked on many imprints of the Penguin publishing house.COUAbove, left to right: the 1961 edition, and a late 70’s edition, both featuring Bloomfield’s medieval-inspired cloud.

Such an enduring image.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about this image and the ideas in The Cloud of Unknowing, but those are for another time. Right now, here are a number of the recent abstractions.

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Night Sky Sliver. Oil, acrylic and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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Pink Wedge. Oil, acrylic, digital print and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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Locking Diagonal. Oil, acrylic, collage and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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Crossover. Oil, acrylic and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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The Unfold. Oil on panel, 24 by 24 inches, 2015.

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Bent Icon. Oil on panel, 24 by 24 inches, 2016.

I’ve certainly been influenced in these by my ongoing love of the work of Marcelo Bonevardi and Richard Diebenkorn, but I think that watching Christian Ramirez’s recent work (mostly via Instagram) has been instrumental as well. Most important has been working up close on Dugan’s effervescent surfaces and trying to wrestle with them.

I’ve got a few more of these in the works – I’ll share them as they manifest.

 

What I’ve been musing on recently

I’ve been thinking about overtly shifting the direction of my work for a while now – perhaps a year. I don’t know that this shift would be easily discernible from the outside, but it represents a significant change of focus for me. As I look back over the last year of my practice and then cross-reference what I’m seeing there with some of the artists and artworks I’ve been looking at during that time, I can really see some connections forming.

For instance, check out these recent pieces:

The Teachers, Mandala for the Murky History of Beginnings and Endings #1, Portrait of Miranda at Thirteen Months, Two Bells, and The Seedbed #1.

Then compare their compositional formatting with aspects of the works of artists I’m looking at here:

Richard Diebenkorn, Miyoko Ito, Barry Le Va, Nicholas Byrne, David Rabinowitch, Julian Stanczak, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Marcelo Bonevardi, Frank Nitsche, Sharon Butler, and Vincent Fecteau.

It seems to me that my previous forays into more formal explorations – such as with the Locus Series (book here), and the conceptually interconnected Quintessence Series and Dodecahedron Series – are becoming more and more deeply apparent in my main body of work. In some ways I’m finding myself less drawn to the figure as a necessity and more drawn to the composition itself. I’m deeply interested in the perception of formal dynamics and the sense of haptic maneuvering that can take place within two-dimensional forces.

So it is that my recent miniseries, three of which are shown above in progress (9 inches in diameter, collage, gouache, acrylic and graphite on paper), have come about. They call back to previous works, such as this one from 2005, which was part of a side project I did while finishing up grad school (I needed a break from my thesis paintings):

First Bend, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 14 by 23 inches, 2005. Destroyed. Click to enlarge.

Anyway, who knows? We’re all moved and pressed and pushed, often by things we don’t entirely recognize. That’s why painting is so much more like getting lost in the woods than it is like jumping in a car and driving to the store for milk. It’s not meant to be that simple.

If it were that way there would be no discovery, no evocation beyond what we already know… and what good would that be?