Friday, August 24, 2012

Words, Part I

This is going to be the first of probably a long series of posts about my work. Just because I don't write about my work, or because there is no writing on my website, does not mean I am not constantly negotiating a dialogue between myself and the work, and between the work and itself, the work and other work I have done or that other people have done. But I figured that, for better or for worse, that starting to write about my work will help me by making me feel somewhat legitimized in my OWN mind in terms of what [I know] I'm constantly ruminating on, and, be one step of many towards privileging my work with an explanation that my viewers, should they exist, may not always deserve, but will nonetheless desire, if they care to desire it. Unfortunately I am realizing that I have to come down off of my high horse and stop assuming that people will give a shit about the work that I am creating, or why. I have been taking for granted that people would merely intuit that my work was thoughtful and done somehow in earnest merely by way of a sixth sense (the sense that somebody else, not you, is thinking about something carefully, but expressing it differently than you might). It seems, that until people extend me that courtesy (cough, never) I will have to spoon feed them some information, which perhaps will allow them to give me some credit once in a while. So. I am going to start by giving people a sense of where this all came from, and then start to try to unfold my work a little bit. This will be a series of stories from my childhood, experiences, and just plain thoughts about my work that I have and are probably in a very nascent stage of existence (I hope...). Ultimately, I see this as an exercise which will ultimately get me in the habit of talking about my work in my own terms, and to start to unpack things which make perfect sense as objects or experiences, but when expressed through other means feel awkward or difficult to articulate. I don't have many people right now who are interested in this, and is also an outlet for me to start just venting about my work. So forgive me if it's not the most composed of things, but you know me; there is a reason why I am an artist and not a writer, and it's because worded concision is not always my strong suit. [Case in point, all of the above.]

Ok, so here it goes. I'm going to be more casual with my writing so as to be more in keeping with the overall willy-nilly aesthetic of this blog that keeps me entertained, and keeps you from getting bored, if you, dear reader, even exist.

Up until now, I have been relatively committed to this idea that most of my work involves in some way a process that is personal, peripatetic, hidden, and ultimately lost in my private realm.

The idea behind this is simple: people tend to look more at things that they fail to comprehend, so make a process that is too painstaking to ever wish to articulate, and layered enough, so if somebody should just dive on in, it would be a while before they got to the bottom of anything, if ever, while still maintaining some degree of integrity in the initial conquest -- e.g. to say something true.

In this vein, the goal behind most of my work is also pretty simple. I want people to stop and think about something. Mostly I just want them to stop and look, because I am an artist and I think that's what most artists like. Actually thinking, I know, is secondary and quite a bill.

There is history here.

In terms of my artwork, I started doing this as an artist in college when I became a printmaker (printmaker, as I define it, is anybody who makes a print, once. You made one at the Childrens' Museum? Great. You're a Printmaker).

So I started printmaking accidentllly I was rejected from painting because somebody at Columbia (cough, Gregory Amanoff) said that I couldn't draw, which is bullshit because I am excellent (if I do say so myself). I can draw pretty much anything that I want to, mostly stuff in my imagination, but lots of stuff! My portfolio, however, had moved beyond that, and did not really stand to my drawing abilities, seeing as I was invested deeply in painting at that point. Oh, well, it worked out for the better, and I'm so glad that he was so wrong, because it helped me find something else that was very right.

So, ok. I took drawing 101, dominated, and then realized that maybe I wanted to do some more stuff with lines on paper. My professor told me to take printmaking, and it was love at first sight. I was immediately into big machines, new words, and new skill sets. In high school, this was pretty much the only reason why I got into sports. When I signed up as a trial for the crew team, all of the new language and boat talk fascinated me, and I was intellectually hooked, even though, to this day I would hold that being in a crew race is probably just as bad, if not worse than giving birth. Yes, probably worse, as at the end you lose and have bloody hands and are crying, and don't even have a baby to show for it.

Well, in printmaking culture, I probably latched onto all of the wrong things, and I know this because I am not really a good printmaker, and don't really go about making prints anymore, even though I consider myself to be a printmaker through and through. After I stopped being horny over the big flat-bed presses with the biiiiiig wheels, the ACIDS, rosin room!, and the various tools (dremmels! diamond-tipped needles! rockers!) that you could possibly use, I started to learn things about what it meant to be a printmaker.  I got the sense that a lot of printmakers were totally obsessed with just being really hardcore about process just to show that they have a badass skillset, a sort of stump-the-chump mentality. Like, they'd approach you and say, "What do you think THIS is?" And I'd say, "That's easy, it's a woodcut." And then I'd find out it was a 27-layer silkscreen print with chine collé on some kind of wild handmade paper that made it look like a print that was probably much simpler to make. The idea would be to make something look effortless, as if it had never been touched, but merely spoke itself onto the cleanest, most supple piece of paper you ever did see. All this, while putting so much crazy effort into it that it became impossible to divine how it came into existence, without somebody explaining it, with a magnifying glass and white gloves, or an x-ray machine. In this class, I learned to be come really obsessed (and good at) determining how -- between methods, machines, materials and man -- something came to be. And then, of course, my goal became to play that game but try to play it better, differently, and on my own terms, to serve my own interests.

The idea of making something look untouched, simply extant, as a finished project was also something that resonated with me deeply. Painting was all about these difficult but nonetheless relatively arbitrary choices all sort of revolving around concept, imagination, color, and space. Painting, in spite of knowing that there were skills involved in making the various decisions that one could in that context, could nonetheless be anything. In printmaking, you had more of a structure which appealed to me. This idea that you needed to simultaneously show off your chops while trying your best to turn your body and actions into a machine was fascinating to me, and probably struck a chord within me, boomeranging vibrations straight to my Catholic upbringing (which taught you to do good even when nobody knew it, and be self-effacing and body-denying to the end). The idea that seeing a good, clean print was a success in and of itself, that mere finished-ness as an object or idea qualified as admirable really kind of stuck.

In the meantime, this little thing called The Facebook opened up around the same time I was taking printmaking. It initially seemed like this snobby Ivy-League thing, but soon everybody started to realize that it was sort of changing the way people our age interacted. People were being jammed into templates, and soon enough their words, thoughts and actions were being crammed into differently, and more awkwardly named templates of different sorts. I really think that I could sense that the world was changing in some big way, because I started to make work (admittedly really bad work) that reacted to it as best as I knew how. Having had the mentality of a painter (and a painter, at that, who was interested in concept - we can go into my gradeschool and highschool era "conceptual" artworks later on, if you'd like, in the second volume of my memoirs), my first impulse was to embed a sort of readable content in some conceptual, invented pictorial language. This is what I'd always turned to, because I could. I made these really complex, cold, and disturbing landscapes involving half-formed humans, mostly old-fashioned looking, aryan pre-teen amputees and animals and mutants, and extinct birds that were all kind of living in the same world, connected and mutating and casually, lazily fucking each other and just as coldly ingesting one another, birthing each other, and spitting each other out.

But then I started reading more theoretical works, and in particular was drawn to some old painting analyses by Michel Serres, this French philosopher [in't college amazing like that? you're just exposed to so much all at once...and it blows because you're young and brash and scared and surrounded by people that are bigger idiots than you are, and thus you are also miserable, but it's also just an interesting time.].  I also remember first being exposed to Lacan at this time, and was all bent out of shape over the fact that the guy just seemed so naïve -- his writings just seemed too reliant on vision and visibility, period. Lacan probably got me thinking about other kinds of experience, other than visual, which define human experience, which shape who we are, and also about language and visual and experiential spectrums. Well, after reading this stuff, I started to think of things more broadly, but also more simply. I made sketches of musical scales and constellations, and made dozens of photocopies of kung fu moves, etc. I took a course on perception and neuroscience.

My work started to become more interested in practice and materials as a means of auto-expression. Things that are what they are can be just as mysterious, interesting, but all the more to the point. And in this world that seemed increasingly complicated, and brash and confusing, action and materials just made sense.

Probably all of this sounds very old-fashioned to a lot of people. The world wants people in my generation to just latch on to whatever is new and interesting, and go with the flow and frenetically spit out material that deals with what is new, now, next. I'm not ever going to be that person. I have always been sort of ping-ponging in between being ahead of the game, and being very old school. To me, they are the same, as, if you'll forgive a cliché, history always seems to repeat itself, so it doesn't fucking matter. But, for what it's worth, this is how I came to be both interested in some of the things that interest me now. Basically, I was and am looking for new languages to give the world some kind of sonar (not a mirror, ok?) through which it might better perceive itself.

And don't get me wrong, I am not convinced that I'm going to Change The World or something big and noble like that. But I do just want to keep making stuff that will make people, if only for one millisecond, feel a little strange in the world and the skin that they are only peripherally aware of, if that. And I think that if I can manage to do that, one way or another, I'm making the world a better place, doing my part, whatever.

So this is a start. Influences I guess you could call it.

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