After being a commercial sign painter for the past seven years, I was extremely excited to re-enter the world of art discourse. The residency at AIB was the first time I hung my large, surreal-like oil paintings alongside my sign work. In this context, the divide within my work became apparent to me. On one side technical skill is displayed, while on the other, an emotional or intellectual response is evoked. These issues were addressed during my critiques and discussions with fellow graduate students. Below, I will try to highlight this discourse and finally plot a direction for the incorporation of both the technical and intellectual within my future work.
When I show photographs of my sign work to other fine artists they often try to find an angle or some subversive statement that I am trying to make outside of the sign’s functionality. While talking about the sign work I had on display at AIB, Oliver Wasow asked if I was somehow making a statement about Op Art, pointing to the placement of the letters O and P in my alphabet painting. Similarly, a fellow student was looking at the photographs of my commercial sign work, and asked what the ultimate message I was intending to convey was. My oil paintings on the other hand, in particular the one containing the barrels of dead cow parts, may be too heavy handed and not leave enough to the viewer’s imagination. It is discussions like these that have made me think about my signs and fine art in a new way, and it is my desire to find a balance between the two.
During my critiques, the use of language and letterform in the work of other artists such as Jenny Holzer, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, On Kawara, Jasper Johns, Adam Mcewen, and Robert Indiana was brought into the discussion. In response to these recommendations I have been researching their work and comparing it to my own. I am very interested in their ability to integrate text and ideas both inside and outside a gallery setting. I find artists like Jenny Holzer very interesting in that her work is sometimes literally projected on to the gallery’s facade. This kind of experiment with the appropriateness of placement begins a train of thought about space, specifically about the privileged binaries of inside or outside space. I look at my sign art as outside the gallery world, but then I begin to think about Graffiti Art, and the success with which it has infiltrated the gallery. Artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Barry Mcgee, and Shepard Fairey are artists I have always admired for making this progression.
The discussions about my oil paintings have brought to mind a range of artists such as Salvador Dali, Renee Magritte, Caravaggio, Ralph Goings, and Neo Rauch. When I was creating this work I was obsessed with both Dali and Caravaggio. I enjoyed the latter for his ability to portray raw emotion, and for his dramatic compositions, and Dali for his skill and ability to create fantasy worlds with properties that defy physics. I enjoy the collage elements of Neo Rauch, and the hyperrealist art of Ralph Goings. I would like to use elements of all those mentioned above in my next series of work, along with elements of sign art and lettering.
Another artist that was discussed during the residency who has had some influence on me is William Kentridge, who everyone seems to be talking about, and for good reason. I saw his show at the MOMA in San Francisco, and what I really enjoyed was the combination of mediums and variety of display. Doug Aitken was also mentioned during my elective seminar with Ben Sloat, and is another artist whose combination of different medium interests me, in particular his text pieces in which he inserts different photographic images into the fill of the letters. Finally, the photos of Gregory Crewdson, whose subjects are carefully arranged in sometimes fantastical dramatic environments, then photographed. All of the before mentioned artists along with writers and thinkers such as Baudrillard, Saussure, Deleuze, Pierce, Barthes, and Derrida will help to inform my work in the semesters to come.
My first goal after finishing the residency was to finish a set of paintings for an art show in San Francisco on February 10th. I have finished those paintings and am now planning the remaining semester. What I would like to accomplish from this point is to finish my oil painting The Red Barn, begin preparations for the next large painting, and complete work for another text based art show in June. I am extremely excited to get to work on the next big painting after The Red Barn, as it will make use of both my sign and oil painting experience. My plan this semester is to complete the mockup of the final painting, and make several smaller pieces that will test the techniques I would like to incorporate into the final piece. The final painting will be on several pieces of layer glass, incased by a box frame with internal lighting. Because it is so involved I must make several smaller pieces first that test out my various ideas. These smaller pieces I will have completed before the next residency; the final large piece will have to be completed in the next semester. I would like the smaller pieces to be eventually displayed with the larger piece, like how William Kentridge’s drawings from the film are displayed next to the film itself. I also see these pieces being more affordable to gallery attendees.
To the next residency, I plan to bring several paintings from the San Francisco art show (unless they sell), the completed Red Barn painting, several small pieces on glass demonstrating the techniques that I will use in my next large painting, and some text based works for the upcoming gallery show in San Francisco in June.