Selected Works with Artist's Statement

 

Half and Half

James Little, Countdown, 1981
Oil, glazed wash, canvas, linen, 57.5" x 90.5"

"I believe that art and, more specifically, painting should not be bound or limited to a social or political construct.

Since I am interested in 20th century modern art, and primarily that produced in the United States since 1945, I believe that abstract painting should address the preceding tenants of abstraction.
In the painting “Countdown” (1981), I was attempting to expand on modern precedents by using a multi-paneled format, colors and design elements seen or borrowed from nature, surfaces developed through the use of stencils and the scrattage technique, and by scoring and glazing the painting surface.
My desire was to paint a painting that contained many varied and disjunctive formal elements that functioned simultaneously as a successful pictorial entity."

    

Jack Whitten, Annunciation XVIII, 1979
Acrylic on canvas, 16" x 16"

Annunciation XVIII, 1979 marks the end of a ten year series of conceptualized, process oriented paintings, the objective was to find out what was possible with acrylic paint.

Horizontality as an extension of a gesture was the defining signature of this period. All of the paintings from this period were conceived on a large 12-foot by 24-foot drawing board constructed on the studio floor. A large 12-foot wide T-square “processor” or “developer” was used to pull the paint across a canvas tacked to the drawing board. My idea was to create a non-relational painting encompassing the whole picture plane in single gesture.

I chose Annunciation as title because of its art historical significance. Annunciation XVIII is made by physically overlapping a transparent vertical gesture over a transparent horizontal gesture. This procedure lead to my discovery of what I call molecular perception. Molecular perception is a revolutionary breakthrough in the history of painting and I wanted the world to know… hence the title Annunciation.

 

I Failed Religion
Brushed Nickel is So Elegant 2

Gilda Snowden, Red Stormscape, 2002
Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 30"

I have always been drawn to history and nature, specifically the documentation of the history that is closest to my own experience, including studying the history of my family’s genealogy, and the nature that one can find in a large city. They say that the past is prologue, so my study of the past is in part a desire to predict a future, possibly my own. Past works have included Monuments to my parents; remembrances of frightening episodes, translated into metaphorical Tornadoes; a desire to see, yet not completely depict, my own visage in a series of silhouetted Self Portraits; a collection of assemblages based on the immediate urban setting, titled City Albums; and recently, a series of larger paintings titled Bright Stars At Night that have as their source the battle between the night sky and the artificial illumination from downtown buildings and celebratory fireworks.  The title for the series comes from a line in one of Federico Garcia-Lorca's poems.

In addition to the Bright Stars series I have worked concurrently on a number of paintings illustrating the lush color of selected plants and hothouse flowers. I have used the familiar medium of encaustic because it has always served me well, and its natural base and brilliant color seemed appropriate for these works. This series originally began as a study of plants and flowers that either had the word “black” in their title, like black-eyed Susan’s, or blooms and foliage that exhibited an extremely dark tonality. The idea of a black flower intrigued me. My history of making autobiographical works under the umbrella titles of Album or Self in Storm made the notion of a flower standing in for myself very provocative. This series has the umbrella title of Flora Urbana, as an acknowledgement of its city origins.

I enjoy working on pieces that straddle the boundaries of painting, collage, and low relief sculpture. My peripheral interests are documentation of heritage, history, and self as metaphor; in doing so I am utilizing found objects, collage, old photographs [especially of family members such as my mother as a young woman] along with the beeswaxed surface. The wax is the perfect medium for preserving, protecting, and augmenting the various materials that I find. It is natural and fragrant and unassertive, so it doesn’t hide identities or histories but allows the chronicle to develop naturally. But even more than chronicling my identity, the process of working on this particular series is very satisfying because it gives me an opportunity to return to a study of nature. The private metaphors that are some of my underlying reasons for working on these paintings exist in tandem with a desire to simply paint, exploring abstraction.

Frank Bowling
Untitled, 1980
Mixed media on canvas, 69 1/8" x 14.5"

Untitled, 1980
Mixed media on canvas, 69 1/8" x 14.5"

My art is rule based; that does not mean individual pictures are rules governed. Each work must operate on its own internal logic. Even while there might be related items, since it is my practice to work on several areas at the same time.

In the beginning, from my student days in the late 1950’s, it seems in retrospect natural for me to cling to and lean on geometry. Working under the spell of Jay Hambridge’s “Elements of Dynamic Symmetry” it was my practice to start with a precisely drawn square, the diagonal of which became the longer side of the rectangle within which the painting took place. This rectangle seemed to me the place to start testing one’s judgment as to what is the ideal or most satisfactory shape.

Color in my pictures ends up being intuitive and not calculated or measured. Acrylic paint dripped, poured, spread, brushed, gathering, and separating in its purely fluid state. The mixing and melding of the primaries: red, yellow, blue and the secondaries: green, mauve, and orange. Fusing, separating, and finally settling in pools of liquid material on a neutral ground. Chance and taste playing a major part in this extemporaneous vigilant visual decision, making the truing and faring of the final result. The reconnections end in their beauty and internal logic, the push, pull, tension and momentary aesthetic clarity thereby giving balm to myself and the viewer.

 

Rice is the Main Dish
Brushed Nickel is So Elegant 2

Lou Stovall, Actus Artis VI, 2004
Monoprint, 14" x 12.75"

When I intend the image to be an abstraction, I establish a geometric form within the composition. The appeal of my method is to affect a sense of movement and cause linear elements to interact with the existing images. I then work the edges to relate in overlapping translucencies. Once I have established a look of vibrancy, my purpose leads to the beautiful relationship between colors and the destabilization of the static or geometric form; in other words, the interplay or flux of areas becomes a counterpoint similar to a musical theme, which is thought of as a “call and response.”

Whether planned or not, representational or abstract, a drawing may be a complete thought in itself and can therefore be treated as such, but for me:

The fascination with the sheer beauty of silkscreen ink on paper will probably last forever. It begins with color, the single most appealing element in silkscreen printmaking. Beyond the expectations of line, texture and composition, color attracts, initiates, confirms, informs, soothes and excites. Color fills the senses and opens windows of intrinsic understanding. A single layer of color silkscreened on any surface is in itself the explanation of beauty- integrity, clarity and consonance.

To this end, the prints in the Actus Artis series are made in continual development with color as the primary subject and may best be described as “action printing.” Vivid lessons learned from the action painters of the fifties and sixties, pointed the way to an increasingly physical involvement. Simply put, for many artists painting techniques changed from up-right canvases on stretchers to un-stretched canvases on the floor.
The making of art has been and will continue to be inventive and challenging. For the adventurous, freedom from sitting or standing before a canvas while painting strokes of oil-based or gouache medium, elevated the art of painting to a fully physical activity. To have cups and buckets of free flowing, water based acrylic was as exciting a new development, as was one’s ability to throw, splash, drip, dip and stroke the broom sized brushes. Such was the inspiration for my experimentation with silkscreen mono printing. The fluidity of the technique required to create images of sky, water, land and vegetation all at once, is a liberating and a pro-active challenge.
Like the action painters, I found the change from sitting and cutting stencils to be a welcome and freeing experience. By altering the consistency of the oil-based silkscreen inks so that they would flow into each other, I caused color to interact directly on the screen to form developing images that were mesmerizing. In terms of intensity and commitment, I found making mono prints to be equal to the deliberation required to make a drawing one pencil stroke at a time, or to write a poem one word at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

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