Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2nd roll of silk

I am now beginning to dye my second 50 yard roll of organza - that is, I've cut the lengths and am waiting for sunshine. The cloth already dyed is now in the final stages: it's been torn, rolled and glued; it will need a few strategic stitches to make sure the rolls stand upright.
I have been reading Maya Lin lately and was particularly intrigued by her idea of "ma": a theory in Japanese aesthetics (architecture, gardening) that applies to space and time: it is the distance between stepping stones (something continuous) and also the time it takes to make the step. I love that there is the consideration of time in there - and that it is human time. I want my "slow" art to invite reflection, and for the space and the movement through it to somehow bring serenity -to include this idea of "ma".
Ideas about how I might achieve this: to have the the rolls of silk on platforms - suggesting levels of water, even the sense of a rising tide or cresting wave; and along side, various colors of scrim, perhaps hung vertically on dowels (one on top an done on bottom) so a length of scrim would read one way frontally and another as it participates in the line of vision of other translucent scrims.
The viewer would walk through and between these areas of water and light.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

crit theory paper - Irwin v. Postmoderns

Salley Knight

Professor Hannah Barrett

Critical Theory Paper- Group 2

February 2010

Theory for My Preferred Art

In the February 14, issue of 2010 of the New York Times, Roberta Smith complains that New York museums are showing a surfeit of “Conceptual, Process, Performance, installation and language-based art that is most associated with the label Post-Minimalism.” As she puts it, “What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand”(1). She is looking for exactly the kind of art that I love.

In my alignment with Smith, I lack enthusiasm for the writers such as Michael Newman, Rosalind Krauss and Jacques Derrida, who underpin the work of Post-Minimalist artists. For support of my views, I turn to the philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and the artist, Robert Irwin. In this paper, I will compare the ideas of Newman and Krauss’s of the historical importance of “the mark” (which has been considered a qualification of art) with the ideas of Merleau-Ponty and Robert Irwin. Secondly, I will look at Derrida and Irwin’s views on concept in art.

I find that the writing of Newman and Krauss are of little interest to me. I am minimally drawn to theories on the history of the mark. In turn, I am intrigued by Robert Irwin’s process: his years of Zen-like contemplation and commitment to his art that produced what I consider to be profound insights.

Both Newman and Krauss are interested in the historical significance of the mark. In his essay, “Traces and Marks of Drawing”, Michael Newman investigates one of the earliest stories of art, Pliny’s saga of the woman who traces the shadow of her lover before he departs in order that she might preserve his presence. This trace around the shadow is a mark; it is art. It is art because it refers to the lover. According to Newman, the “(s)hadow becomes the mark of a presence…” (11).

Newman’s interest in the mark’s history has parallels to Krauss’s case for the index when viewing the art of Gordon Matta-Clark and Marcia Halif at P.S. 1 in the 1970s. She wrote in her essay “Notes on the Index” the following: “ As distinct from symbols, indexes establish their meaning along the axis of a physical relationship to their referents. They are the marks…in this category we put physical traces…cast shadows…” (213). Both Newman and Krauss point to the historical significance of the mark in describing how a work is art.

Personally, I am a great appreciator of marks and mark making. I love the sensuality, the personal touch of the mark. The last way I want to view marks is intellectually to the point that they are reduced to sterile symbols, which is the direction I find that Newman and Krauss are headed.

Unlike Newman and Krauss, Robert Irwin does not consider the history of the mark to be the key to understanding a work of art. He is looking at a bigger picture in an attempt to understand what really is the most significant aspect of art, or what it is that affects him most deeply. He argues that the mark itself has actually become less significant to art over time. Jan Butterfield quotes him in her essay, “The State of the Real” as follows: “…modern art has been a step-by-step disassociation and disempowering of the mark”(142). Robert Irwin elaborated on this idea in his October 15, 2009, lecture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He said that: starting with the Renaissance when a work of art (an image, comprised of many marks), most likely a portrait of religious importance, could be recognized as valuable across populations and borders. In the progression of art history, as the images became less literal, as the frame became less important, as the means of creating the art became more personal, the mark became less and less universally important. What remains as the expression of art may not include the mark, in the traditional sense at all. “To be an artist is not a matter of making paintings at all. What we are really dealing with is… the shape of our perception.” (qtd, in Butterfield,141).

Irwin is using the word perception in a specific way gleaned from years of contemplating Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy as laid out is The Primacy of Perception. For Irwin, as for Merleau-Ponty, perception is a deeply felt, embodied experience which suggests that all our senses are involved in seeing. According to Merleau-Ponty, “art radiates from the visible” (182):

There is (a connection in) a human body when, between the seeing and the seen, between the touching and the touched, between one eye and the other, between hand and hand,…the spark is lit between the sensing and the sensible, lighting the fire that will not stop burning. ( Merleau-Ponty 163)

Merleau-Ponty’s theories explain the impact that certain pieces art have on me, a matter that Robert Irwin deals with as well. In Lawrence Wechsler’s book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, he describes a certain period in Irwin’s life when he was drifting in and out of galleries, checking what was being shown. Every once in a while a piece of art would “cut through the fog.” In giving a word to what set those pieces apart, Irwin used the term “presence” : It was not the imagery, it was about something indescribable that a person sensed or did not sense. In one such instance, he was deeply affected by a small Philip Guston painting, which was much stronger than a larger work by James Brooks. In Irwin’s own words, “Well, that goddamn Guston just blew the Brooks right off the wall….by every overt measure - size, contrast, color intensity - that shouldn’t have happened… a good painting has a gathering (force)…a pure energy build-up…” (qtd in Wechsler, 64).

It was this kind of experience with art that Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy served to help Irwin to understand. There was more at work that the marks, the color, the other art elements. There was something transmitted through the art work that was felt on a bodily level.

This leads to the notion of concept, what the artist had in mind for a piece of art, and where that fits in to the picture. Irwin questions the notion of concepts for art but in a way very different from Jacques Derrida, whose whole philosophy was based on a challenge to the certainty of any concept. I find the words of David Hopkins apt in summing up Derrida: “Derrida’s deconstructive strategies consisted in revealing how the self’s sufficiency (and authority) of many concepts is illusory.” (856)

Robert Irwin challenges the artists relationship to concepts (Butterfield 147) but, unlike Derrida, argues that that they have a function. For Irwin , no concept is real, but he advocates seeing them as tools that are useful for the artist’s intention. (Butterfield 150) The concept can be an idea or a feeling, a starting point. The concept launches the creation of the art; once the art is created, it has been imbued with the energy of the artist which the viewer perceives with his or her eyes and body and, in an effort to communicate a response, formulates concepts of his or her own. (Irwin lecture, 10-15-2009) Even though concepts are not real, Irwin says they have weight and importance in art and to an artist because ”when we hold a concept, the world appears to have an up and a down …(it’s okay that) this is all an illusion.” (qtd. in Butterfield 150)

I also believe that concepts have a place. I love the concepts put forth by Merleau-Ponty: that art involves all the senses, that we cannot separate ourselves from our whole bodily perception, and Irwin’s idea that art is a means of expanding that perception. I think that Irwin’s reaction to the Guston painting rose out of the intensity and clarity of Guston’s connection to his concept while creating his painting, a phenomenon that Irwin could sense later in his gut response to the piece.

It was refreshing for me to read Roberta Smith’s New York Times piece. It confirmed for me that others also have grown disaffected by excessive concentration on the art that came out of the intellectual writings of theorists such as Newman, Krauss and Derrida. I was already a follower of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, and felt fortunate to hear Irwin in person at the MFA articulate theories that further resonated with me. I agree with Irwin’s statement that his, “work has never been about abstraction, it has been about experience” (qtd in Wechsler 66). Experience, deeply felt experience is my goal, as well, and the reason that I enjoy and create art.

Works Cited

Butterfield, Jan. “The State of the Real” and “Re-Shaping the Shape of Things”. Art Theory and Criticism, An Anthology of Formalist, Avant-Garde, Contextualist and Post-Modern Thought, Ed. Sally Everett. London: McFarland and Company, 1991.139-153. Print.

Hopkins, David. After Modern Art, 1945-2000. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Irwin, Robert. “The Nature of Abstraction”, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 15 Oct. 2009. Lecture.

Krauss, Rosalind, “Notes on the Index”, Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1985. Print.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Primacy of Perception: And Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Print.
Newman, Michael. “The Traces and Marks of Drawing”, The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act, London, Tate Publishing, 2003. Print.
Smith, Roberta. “Post-Minimal to the Max”, New York Times, 14 Feb 2010, Arts and Leisure 1 and 23. Print.
Wechsler, Lawrence. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008. Print.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12, 2010

I am not sure why I need to have some kind of a structure before I proceed, because I don't necessarily keep that same structure once I create the piece: however, it took me lots of drawing and thinking to understand how to build on my so-called "ocean". If I built forward, the scrims would soon lose translucency through to the backdrop (like water color that gets muddy). Plus, that first piece was the beginning and I wanted the journey to go forward from that, not end there. So, I now have an idea of a 3 piece work, and I am working on the next 2 parts simultaneously. Since so much depends on color, if I can get that to work effectively, then I can expand each area.
I have been dyeing for the 3rd area using the longer process with soy milk since I am using the sueded silk, along with organza, for that area- and the solid silk needs the soy to really hold the color. That dyeing process is much longer and requires quite a bit of set-up. Just today, I also dyed some larger pieces (see photo) for the middle section.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Roni Horn at ICA - 3/11/10

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Roni Horn exhibit. I hadn't expected to be so drawn in to her photos of water - their minimal color made them seem even more sensuous. I am not sure I liked the lengthy writing mounted at the base of each one - the distant views were more compelling. Afterwards, though, I thought the writing did add to the work: that it provided a conversation on top of my own reaction, and the words dropped away as I stepped back, so they were easily ignored. I loved the many levels the work could be appreciated - each piece was strong on its own, and then could be played off against so many similar pieces, especially the photos of the face as weather, and the large photos of water. Each room in itself felt like another body of water with individual works easily flowing into one another. I thought of how I intend to use cumulative effect in my work - and it was inspiring to see it done well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

NYC, March 5-6

I saw an amazing amount of inspiring art on my trip to NYC. On May 5th , I went to see the Art Dealers Association " the Art Show" at the Park Ave. Armory. The first booth was Marion Goodman showing William Kentridge sculpture. I saw a lot of Kentridge at MOMA on Saturday, but not these gorgeous horses that he does so loosely. I am particular about "the horse" and I've never seen it done so much to my liking. There was a lot to see at the Art Show: so many originals by current and past great artists. I found a small Fairfield Porter - just a closeup of meadow with flowers: yellow green with small swipes of orange and pink - looked like it had been done in one sitting. I loved it. I saw a recent Chuck Close and understood why R. brings his name up when looking at my work. There was a breathtaking Frankenthaler, some odd silk and wax flowers, a great Guston, gorgeous Picabia, so much to take in. It was a luxury to have so many top galleries all gathered under one roof. It also was presented in a way that was more captivating than at MOMA the next day, where many of the same artists have work.
On Saturday, The first museum I visited was MOMA to see the William Kentridge exhibit. By fluke, I entered the room with the music and videos for the Met Opera, the Nose ( his most recent work) first. I was enthralled - by the fun, the captivating ongoing assembling or dissassembling, the simultaneity of videos, the ways in which he made his methods so obvious and yet that only added to the magic, the Soviet (I think) music accompaniment. The next room was his work on the Magic Flute - it was equally amazing, and it all took place on one stage - his range of materials and his use of stage effect was impressive. His earlier video works on apartheid and his voluminous quantity of drawings probably would have satisfied me; next to the rooms with the Magic Flute and The Nose, they were only build-up to those over the top productions.
I also saw Ernesto Neto's work in fabric at MOMA. It was fun. As I wondered through the other rooms, I encountered a VW bus expanded with sewn together recycled fabrics, but I missed the name of the artist (a name I didn't recognize).
My next visit was to the Whitney Biennial. It did nothing for me. I wandered through the show, waiting to find something that I felt positive about - not the large fabric hanging with images of smoke, not the ambulance that needed a wall explanation, not the videos that seemed one-liner, not the flowers. I liked the sumi ink drawings, I also liked the newspaper covered couch and the photos behind it. But I felt lukewarm, not thrilled.
I finished my day with a visit to the Guggenheim. The long wait to get in was worth it. Even though I had read about Tino Sehgal's piece, I was engaged. I thought the slow-motion coupling in a public space was just beautiful sculpture. On the ramp, I was greeted first by a boy, maybe 9 years old, then handed off to a girl maybe 15, then a guy maybe 26, and finally a man in his late 50's, maybe. The boy asked what I thought of "progress", and the sequential conversations as I ascended the ramp were seemingly on the same theme, but introduced more personally with each successive person. It was an intriguing sequence, and I left in a buoyant mood - I think because of the exchange of ideas - so instead of an interaction with a visual object, I was affected instead by individuals.
Finally, I enjoyed Anish Kapoor's "memory" , the huge cor ten steel structure that can be seen whole, in part, or just the inside ( totally black, almost as if painted, it's so dark).
After all was said and done, I will be absorbing this NYC visit for a time. The theatricality of Kentridge's work really caught my fancy, the simplicity of his means and the clarity of his message - all impressed me beyond all expectations. And the fact that it was so enjoyable!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Meeting with RPW

On Tuesday, March 2, I met with R. in the SMFA atrium.
R. was particularly drawn to the piece above (the 2 photos were taken on her iphone, which captured the color better than my camera has, perhaps thanks to the location lighting). She liked what I had considered a temporary set-up,in particular the frame, since that is the tool I use for dyeing. I had thought I would have another "cleaner" frame made, but she argued that this added to the piece because it was carried the history of the process(my words). She loved the color effects I was able to achieve and encouraged me to continue this piece, being mindful of the "front row" of colors- to finess their support, so they stand on their own v. in boxes. R. was less drawn to the 2 large silk mache 1/2 balls I brought in: she implied that they evoked female vessel which is overdone. I showed the ingredients for a wall piece: many hand-sized 1/2 balls and grey silk and organza strips and boxes. At this point, R. pointed out to me that I seem to love arranging - and to check out Orozco at MOMA while I was there. She inquired about the ideas behind my work and suggested I keep a word list of what occurs to me while I'm working. I told her that I always felt the early morning rides, from darkness to grey early morning light to color informed all my pieces - and she indicated that this was even more reason to focus on this piece that seems to convey that most clearly. She recommended 2 books: Chromophobia (which I need to re-read) and The Poetics of Space, by Bachelard. Finally I told her about the woman I work most closely with in terms of silk dying itself, and how she (Susan) keeps careful records of her work; R. encouraged me to do the same: to make a book specifically about the process - each color I dye (with samples) that can accompany my work ( but done purposefully, not as art). It was an excellent meeting - the input was just what I needed, although I am now intend to focus on the work that is clearly the most labor intensive. But I agree that it is the richest and has potential to go much further.