In the June 22, 2015 issue of The New Yorker magazine there is an article critiquing the art of the German painter Albert Oehlen (twenty-seven of his works are now on view at the New Museum in New York City). Peter Schjeldahl calls Oehlen "the foremost painter of the era that has seen painting decline as the chief medium of new art."
Schjeldahl writes, "If Oehlen has a method, it is to recoil, stroke by stroke, from conventional elegance—strangling one aborning stylistic grace after another. He has said that he was fascinated, early in his career, by American Action painting of the nineteen-fifties—a histrionic mode of pictorial rhetoric, specifically imitative of de Kooning, whom Oehlen cites as a hero. (The term was misapplied to Jackson Pollack's drip painting, which exult a canny control.) Oehlen's variant—call it reaction painting—fights back toward the Master's rigorous originality. (Oehlen's one prominently lacking resource is de Kooning's forte of drawing)."
Long-time readers of this blog know that I admire Willem de Kooning's work, but find most of Pollack's work problematical and unremarkable.
I believe my work is true reaction painting, built, as is de Kooning's work, on a forte of drawing. Oehlen's work is just acting-out. His lack of draftsmanship leaves his work with little more than active play, bereft of emotional depth.
I am slowing down and watching more carefully. Call it a move toward mediative reactionism. Gushy paint is being replaced by thinner paint which allows more sensual feel and touch. This means I am still learning the provocation from which my personal craft arises. My pencil line has had this quality of sensual touch for quite a while.
It can be a problem to be too serious in an existence that has its mystery of reason. Giving up being "serious" equates to making sense of "Why am I here?". This is important if clarity in personal vision is important. Since I believe clarity of personal vision is important, I will follow this formula: questions succeeded by possible answers. I am able to extract a sense that it is reasonable to exist because I am examining my questions by manufacturing possible answers.
Drawings from 06/24/2015, both are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Drawings from 06/23/2015, both are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
If there is anything which defines my most recent activity, it is my desire to immerse myself in personal inspiration. This has taken the edge off my aspiration to become an important artist. In the past, important, to me, meant engaging a wide populace of viewers. I have stopped worrying about that, and I have begun to worry about self-relevancy. Yes, one worry has all but disappeared and is being fully replaced by another. So maybe today's title is wrongly conceived. I am in the midst of replacing my aspiration to be relevant to many to being relevant to myself.
Yesterday's drawing are important drawings, i.e. they are important to me.
Sometimes I wish my ideas would stay the same for extended periods of time. Is there happiness in stasis? All I know, as an outside observer of myself, is transition is active and alive. Everything I know, and everything I think I know, is open to question and change. Is this bravery, necessity, or foolishness? Perhaps a bit of each. Only time and work will distinguish actuality from the lies I tell myself.
Drawings from 06/21/2015, both are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
It is making me very nervous. I feel I have lost the desire for routine. Routine is being replaced with acceptance of mystery. You will have to see this to believe it. And so will I. When I step into the studio today I will go from a warm-up with a drawing to looking for answers in the painting Tee-Shot. Warming-up with a drawing sounds like routine, so perhaps the loss I am writing about is me not knowing where I am and where I am going. It is acceptance of discovery in the here and now. My images on paper and canvas will no longer have definitive precedents. This is a strange mode of behavior. I have routinely looked to yesterday's work to determine the direction I am going. It does not feel like that any longer. Discomfort of unknowing is mine.
My own work looks strange to me. I am a stranger in a strange land. Is this the way it goes from here on out?
Drawings from 06/19/2015, both are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Drawings from 06/18/2015, both are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
...to be continued... that is the mechanism of being, and the mystery of work gone right. It appears like the light of day, after day, after day.
It is important that you begin looking at today's work on a smaller scale. Then, click upon the images to view them in a larger format. The compositions are as interesting as their references to representation. These drawings were made by jumping into a pool so deep that no light gave me hints to its contents. Content was discovered simultaneously with composition. Today I will return to the newest painting, Tee-Shot. I will approach its making in the same way I made these drawings.
I am a man raised upon my intellect, and upon my physical ability to go fast and endure. Yet I am here. I am discovering, through fits and starts and stops and failures and successes, authenticity is revealed not simply by intellect, nor by the ability to call up physical prowess. I will reveal that which causes me wonderment and joy through mindfulness. This I know, because through profound failures, and because of profound successes, this truth has identified itself to me. Also, I hear this truth so often. This information is surfacing in many places. Today I was listening to a podcast with the man who has taught NBA basketball players to access mindfulness. That which he spoke is that which I am discovering. To hear this Podcast go to George Mumford, meditation master to the NBA’s stars – Kobe, Shaquille, Jordan – brings us his zen.
You would think this is the way it ought-to-be, all-of-the-time, but it ain't! I am having to grow myself into accepting that there are no pre-conceptions. I just need to show up. Showing up means something happens. No plans. No rigid ideas. It is the simplicity of now. If this is simple, why does it feel nerve-wracking? Well, I am admitting I do not know what I am doing. Not knowing is emotionally difficult. It is thinking on my feet, rather than knowing the course of the river. What is around the bend? I do not know. I do not care. I just show up. I just do. It is a surprise. It is self-teaching at a level far deeper than a book of words. There are no words. From whence it comes has not been tabulated.
Drawings from 06/14/2015, all are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
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