"Tao of Flux" charcoal on Mylar, 20" x 30"
AIB MFA Group 3
Residency Summary – January, 2011
I am now one full year into the Graduate Program at the Art Institute of Boston, and it has been a hugely edifying experience thus far. A few weeks ago, I returned to a snow-laden Boston for my third residency as a Group 3 student. I brought the six new works that I had completed over the semester and hung them in my new crit group space with a little bit of jury-rigging in the lighting department (it turned out fine). Again, I openly welcomed any and all kinds of critique with an objective attitude, knowing full well that the crits from this residency would inform this new semester's work – a vital period in which I will be executing the bulk of my thesis artwork.
As noted in the semester summary, I had experimented quite a bit with concepts, materials, size and paint facture. This no doubt made for a little confusion with regard to formal critique; it still read on the whole as a “sampler” rather than a cohesive body of work. Nevertheless, I knew this beforehand, so an initial incertitude on behalf of the critic was expected. My ultimate hope was in finding out which piece(s) worked best so that I might move in that direction for the Group 3 semester. This is not to say that I was conducting some kind of democratic “vote for this painting” kind of study, but rather, I was trying to gauge the visceral responses of the faculty and students across the breadth of work displayed.
Rather than engage in a dramatized soliloquy of the critiques, I will instead list each faculty member and bullet-point the vital considerations they offered:
- Explore cinematic tropes of screen and rupture
- Push formal qualities of realism: foreground vs. background and their respective clarity
- The “heroism” of quotidian objects
- Read: Roland Barthes – The Reality Effect
- Effects of displaying as group and/or grid
- Push burgeoning idea of synthetic vs. naturalistic
- Exaggerate illusionistic space
- Push textural interest
- Look more at Van Ruisdael (appropriation?)
- Look at filmic/photographic idealizations of landscape
Look at painters:
- Peter Rostovsky* (post-Richter photographic realism)
- Inka Essenhigh
- Verne Dawson
- Anna Conway
- Ed Ruscha
- Broaden thematics of the narrative works
- Play with photographic effects (replicate in paint)
- Cameron Martin
- Don't get too hermetic; mix it up
- Explore Baroque in narratives
- look at: Neo Rauch, Peter Doig
- Make more work! [“The artists that make the most work make the best work” - John Cage]
- Explore cinematic scenes, swap out the dramatic elements with something unexpected
- Keep it simple: employ single structural device in the work
- Revisit Matthew Barney's “Cremaster Cycle” - look at stills
- Increase tactility/ enhance visual pleasure
- Employ collage into concepting process (look at Ellsworth Kelly's Tablet – postcards)
- Work with “overlapping mythologies”
- Q: What are the essences of painting?
- Q: What painting do I want to see? What is vital to me?
- look at: Damon Lehrer, Paul Rahilly
- Try surrealist “automatic” drawing in concepting process
- Find ways to use “illustration” in own idiom
- Be open and directed simultaneously
- Connect imagery from one work to the next
- Tolkien: Bible/LOTR | William Blake: Bible/Book of Job illustrations
- Use collage in concepting process
There are clearly a number of overlapping critiques here, and those are always the ones not to be cast aside lightly. Some ideas dovetail nicely with themes that I was already trying to establish, such as playing with cinematic/photographic tropes. I think the motivating factor behind those suggestions was that I hadn't been pushing those ideas hard enough. Hannah's recommendation regarding an amplification of the synthetic/real binary struck a chord. I've always been operating in that zone, but haven't given it full rein. This gibes well with Nuit's allusion to the “heroism of quotidian objects.” Most interesting is the notion of collage as a way to find my way into a concept. The fact that Tony and Stuart suggested this same thing on separate occasions is notable; I think they both know me in very different ways (Tony, through my painting; Stuart, through my writing and camaraderie), so there is something that they are seeing that clearly necessitates using collage in some way.
As my advisor this semester, I was hoping Tony would challenge me during the crits, and he did. He made some formal painting suggestions, as is his wont; he is an accomplished painter, so such things are welcome. But, beyond that, he handed me some tough self-reflective questions. The “What painting do I want to see? (then paint it)” question seems rhetorical at first, but he assured me it was not. This is still something to wrestle with. My feeling on it right now is that I'm not particularly beholden to any image, but perhaps a series of images dealing with a specific problem. That may well be conceptual or implied, I don't know. The idea of narrative is still within me, but one image may not be enough to hold the narratives I have in mind, whatever they may be. Also, “What is vital to me?” is an equally difficult matter. I tend to enjoy the “clever” aspects of painting: mastery of the technical, leading the viewer to question what they see, using representation in a funny or surprising way. There is no one thematic that specifically lends itself to this way of thinking, though – and I need to decipher what that is in order to create a cohesive body of work. This resonates with Tony's advice to “connect one piece to the next.”
In addition to the critiques was the Critical Theory 3 seminar led by the estimable Sunanda Sanyal. The crux of our (lively!) discussion was around awareness of Western mythologies regarding cultural norms, especially as it pertains to art and art history. As artists, our awareness and empathy with a world that is becoming increasingly more connected on the global level can only begin to take root in our work if we work to understand cultures on their terms. We also worked to dispel the unfortunate conflation of “universal” and “global,” as the former term is merely a facade for a passive-aggressive form of colonization. Knowing how the Other has been repressed throughout history can help us better recognize injustices at the local as well as the global level. Even a venerated institution such as the Museum, as we learned, has not been immune to the Western myth of monoculture.
Also very fruitful was Laurel Sparks' seminar on Professional Development for the Artist. She supplied us with a fantastically helpful document that tracks everything from how art dealers operate through comporting yourself properly when the drinks are flowing too freely at an opening. She explicated this packet step-by-step, and took questions as they arose. The specifics of how the professional art world works has far more depth than I'd imagined – yet – the art world itself is far smaller than one could ever believe. “One or two degrees of separation at the most” is how Laurel put it.
And once again, the faculty put together another enlightening panel discussion. Sunanda and Hannah were the duo on this particular occasion, and the subject was irony. Sunanda's half of the talk dealt with historical aspects of the ironic in visual culture, and cited such significant works like Velazquez' Las Meninas as an example of the artist using the ideals of representation in an ironic way. Hannah dealt with irony in its contemporary context, noting a dramatic shift in its intended use and how it is now rife with cynicism and sarcasm for the most part. But, in the question portion of the program, it came to light that perhaps the perception is that the art/artist seems cynical – however, they may just want to be indulgent. Nevertheless, it remains, as Sunanda concluded, a useful pictorial device in these times of doubt.
So here I am on the cusp of doing some of the most important work of my artistic life. In no way am I indulging in hyperbole here – the program dictates this, and I want to step up to that level at long last. Rather than succumb to the perceived pressure over this new reality, I will take my friend Stuart's advice and just generate a lot of work in the studio. It was enough to be hesitant with my “pulled from the Matrix” shock of the first semester, and then indulge in time-consuming and/or technically strange experiments in the second one. Now is the time to pull it all together in a cohesive, coherent series of works. My definitive intent is to not only have these works serve as the linchpin of my thesis, but also as the foundation upon which I can build a successful oeuvre.
- Paul Rahilly
- Damon Lehrer
- William Blake
- Matthew Barney
- Peter Doig
- Neo Rauch
- Cameron Martin
- Peter Rostovsky
- Inka Essenhigh
- Verne Dawson
- Anna Conway
- Ed Ruscha
- Van Ruisdael
- Ulrich Lamsfuss
Barthes, Roland. "The Reality Effect." The Rustle of Language. Trans. Richard Howard.
Oxford: Blackwell, 1986. 141-148. Print.
Cremaster 3. Dir. Matthew Barney. Perf. Richard Serra, Aimee Mullins and Matthew Barney. Palm Pictures, 2002. DVD
Elkins, James. Six Stories From the End of Representation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. Print
Godfrey, Tony. Painting Today. London: Phaidon, 2009. Print
Pethö, Ágnes. “(Re)Mediating the Real. Paradoxes of an Intermedial Cinema of Immediacy.” Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies, 1 (2009) 47-66. Print
Storr, Robert. Gerhard Richter: Doubt and Belief in Painting. New York, MOMA Press, 2003 Print