Going home is going back to one's roots. I am doing this. In fact, I am returning to the roots of classical art. I have tried, repeatedly, to defeat classicism. Picasso accepted classicism as truth. Picasso gave into the reality that classicism had determined the best way to engage the viewer. Classicism was centuries old before Picasso got here, even older before I got here. Classism had challenged many ways of presenting imagery. Picasso accepted that classicism had succeeded. The invention, and the success of Modern Art, is not about compositional challenge; that had already been done. No matter the degree of distance Picasso put between his images and naturalism, the force of his compositions always accepted classicism's compositional dictates. Every image Picasso presents is "in your face," "straight ahead," composed to engage by laterally depicting his images within the defined rectangle. No matter the wildness of Picasso's forms, his compositions do not disturb the viewer's natural way of digesting an image. The wildness of Picasso's image are attenuated by his acceptance of pure compositional classism. I am now doing the same. It took me longer to get to here, to this insight, then it did Picasso (or Van Gogh or Matisse or Philip Guston or Willem de Kooning, for that matter). Those five (Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Guston, de Kooning) are my heroes, my main mentors. Four of them were my mentors from a distance, but Philip Guston mentored me in person.
Take a look at today's drawing. I accept classical composition. Why, I ask, has it taken me so long? This acceptance frees me to invent via form, color, scale, shape, and space. It frees me because I accept the basic rules that are classical composition. No more will I fight the tenets of classical composition.
Below I show you two daring works of art. They do not challenge "Classical Composition." The do challenge how we see. Both of these paintings creating a reality that challenges our visual world through imagery, not through composition.
It difficult to believe this is me. I am a man in a zoo, looking at a species that makes stuff separate from myself. This is similar to an episode of the old Rod Serling Twilight Zone series: There is a life-form in front of me, acting out its reason for being. I am watching it, like an alien watching a human for the first time. The spectacle in front of me is me. Truth is bizarrely correct. I am watching an intelligent life-form make sense of the cage it is in. I am watching it unravel that which exists but must be unearthed.
These are three excellent drawings. Each made by me. Each different, and each is true. I am more than any one part of me. I am made of many parts sewn together by a confluence of life experiences. These are discrete, disparate experiences, all valid because they are in my true, living memory. This is the reason for variety in my art. I accept the search is not about finding one image, but about finding the many images that arise because I am able to sing many tunes in my true voice.
Feeling a lot in the making of visual art means pushing the possibilities that marks and forms allow; this is done in order to approach the craziest of emotions while sticking to the time-honored definition of a rectangular plane's ability to be seen properly by viewers. Communication is engagement; engagement would not happen if the images created are far afield from the recognizable. A viewer must be somewhat comfortable in order to enter, then explore. It is in the exploration that art is made and art is seen.
Yesterday's drawing is one more effort to bridge the gap between all that is known and all that I know and feel. I am working hard to keep myself, and the images I make, centered. "Centered" is full acceptance of me in the world. All is possible if I limit myself to real possibilities, not to a wish list based upon fiction and fantasy.
Yesterday, one drawing to the next came with additional clarity. Forward in knowing came by acceptance of backward knowledge that I had been unable to fully bring into my art-making. I am getting closer to fully stripping away my preconceptions and bias. The drawings I show you here are listed in reverse of their making, last-made to first-made; this inform me that stripping did occur in this one day of being mindful in my studio. This feels very good!
You can't do this without it. Full revelation, nudity if you wish, requires full frontal revelation to be fully enticing. Enticement is my goal. Without enticement I lose the viewer before engagement. If you place a fully nude, fully frontal person, in front of you, do you not become engaged? Behold! It is the same for art!
The title of today's blogpost refers to acceptance; I accept the means to my full express is two-dimensional; I am talking about the reality of my substrates. I make art standing in front of flat pieces of paper and flat rectangles of canvas; I draw upon them, both figuratively and literally. I accept composition as a 2D problem; yes, I enjoy alluding to the in/out artifice of 3D space; I no longer delude myself; I cannot accomplish the emotional power I seek, or full engagement of myself, if I do not first engage through two-dimensional expression.
I feel very good about yesterday's work. It is not an end, but it is a step. I am calling out, I am saying, "I know..., this is reality; here is truth in media. Look! I am expressing myself clearly; Why did it take me so long?" My answer, "Because I thought there was a means to expression through defeating the two-dimensional aspect of paper and canvas." I was wrong. I should make sculpture if I wish solely to investigate via the third dimension. I did once. That was not my bag. I enjoy too much the full sweep of hand and arm, the marking of paper and canvas. I enjoy too much the artifice of light on a 2D surface, and the use of color to do so. I enjoy too much these two-dimensional problems.
Yesterday's drawing is worth its try. I am looking to excite the entire two-dimensional surface. I'm looking to engage emotions upon first site. The insistence of two-dimensionality, which is true for all wall-hung objects, is undeniable. I have tried to deny that, but the hour is getting later; I want to express now, not later. So, here they come. One after another; I am going to hurl images at the viewer, all in acceptance of my human-ness, reality, and my angst. I want to be here to stay, but I know that cannot be true. Full acceptance is pictorial two-dimensional acceptance; 2D limitations embrace both space and time. I live in a 3D human world where 2D images hang on our walls. Okay, I accept it! Now, here come the real.
I am fully aware that the greatness of Pablo Picasso began in his youth. Early on in his artistic life, Pablo accepted the limitations of space and time; his acceptance occurred far earlier in his life than my acceptance of the same. From my earliest days I rebelled against limitations. Pablo accepted the reality of limitations, then he worked within those limitations to create amazingly disparate images. I show you one (below), because it is related to the drawing I created yesterday.
I had intended to go back today, into the studio, finish this drawing. This drawing is not dated, nor signed (it was made yesterday). Looking at this drawing this morning, I call it done. There is a freeform play about it; I enjoy it, so I will accept it.
Today will be my first full day in the studio in quite a while. The Coronavirus outbreak has distracted me for many reasons. Today I feel fine. All my preparations, food, family, and friends, financial and shelter, feel comfortable. I feel a sense of security in this topsy-turvy world of disease and political missteps. This may not last. I will grab it while I can. I am off to my studio as soon as I place the period on this sentence.
I have often wondered, "Why did I reject academia?" I chose not to teach art. This was, and is, a BIG risk. I have not been employed in doing the thing that is my career. Instead, I live modestly, with no BIG reward for living well looming in my future. The manner I approach art-making reveals the story of my choice. I am going it alone; I have rejected the academic. This kind of career is not a straight line — I am not making academic work in result or in process. I am a seeker of self-truth based upon the history of self-truth seekers, from Van Gogh to Cézanne to Matisse to Giacometti. The painting, Seriously?, exhibits this non-academic searching and seeking. It is wandering, state after state, to nothing anyone else could produce but me.
I have long feared complexity as possible harbinger of confusion. Yesterday's drawing did not tap into this fear. I felt control and clarity. Looking at this drawing, as reproduced here, I believe I did succeed in layering the complex, yet creating simplicity of comprehension. This drawing is about balance: balance of forms, balance of compositional movements, and balance of value and contrast. It works for me!
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