Yesterday I received a used copy of the 1996 Ellsworth Kelly Retrospective Exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Slid between the front cover and the title page was a Guggenheim Museum flyer for the opening month of the exhibit. In the flyer was a reference to Pablo Picasso, showing one of his drawings that influenced Ellsworth Kelly. That drawing inspired the drawing I show you today (made yesterday).
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.
When does simplification become too much? Am I simplifying? Clarity is an act of decisiveness; Simplification is an act of divorce. That which appears simpler is often more complex. Complexity is a measure of profundity. Simplification is a measure of ease. This painting, "Your Decisions Matter", is complex; it is profound, albeit simpler in color scheme and its number and kinds of forms. Mark Rothko understood profundity; he made, to the unobservant eye, seemingly simple paintings. I leave you with a great painting by Mark Rothko.
Over and over I have been asked to identify the artist who has influenced me most. I react different to two kind of Artist Influencers. There are artists whose splendid paintings I admire; Picasso comes to mind. There are artists who make splendid paintings, but I also admire their process, their methodology. This second category is more important to me, I have often referred to Matisse as a major influencer; of course the many discussions I had with my primary teacher and mentor, Philip Guston, will always influence my quest for truly satisfying process-methodology. Until yesterday! I have often looked at, often admired, the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a little book entitled, Basquiat-isms. This book is filled with splendid snippets of ideas, direct quotes from Basquiat. Here are three from that book; these make total sense to me:
"I am trying to communicate an idea; I was trying to paint a very urban landscape. I was trying to make paintings different from the paintings that I saw a lot of at the time, which were mostly minimal, and they were highbrow and alienating, and I wanted to make very direct paintings that most people would feel the emotion behind when they saw them."
"I feel if I work randomly, I come up with a more interesting narrative."
Asked, "Do you think you are lucky?" Basquiat responded, "Talented, too."
I began yesterday's drawing with as much randomness as I could muster. My intense self-educated skill took over; I worked as thoughtlessly as I could muster. Look what happened!
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