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Slow Painting

10:02 AM 8/6/2009 (date written)
Note: If my memory serves me correctly, this piece must have started out as an imaginary Q&A between myself and myself. But, here, the questions (Q:) were never written in….???? Interesting? I will leave it at that. Now the reader has to form the question after reading the answer… like Jeopardy.
5:42 PM 8/20/2010

Slow painting

Q:
A: My paintings require a slow entry into them. They are not taken in within a few seconds. It could take an hour, several hours, over several days, over several weeks. It takes some time to get comfortable with my work. My work doesn’t sit well, or fit well, into a world of the sound bite.

Q:
A: Popular culture is just that: popular. The closer an art form comes to how the “average” person relates to it, the more popular it is. Most people are not educated in the more sophisticated underpinnings of what goes into the making or the history of an art form. The less complicated the art form, the more everyday in its relations and communications, the wider its audience; the wider its support; the wider its sales possibility.

Q:
A: My painting is not easy. It not easy to make. It is not easy to read. It is not easy to sell. From a commercial view point it is not a commodity in the popular sense. From a sales position it takes time to sell the work. We exist in a commercial era where time = money. Extrapolate: short time = short money or long time = long money. Uh! No. This isn’t how it works. Gallery success, as I understand it today 2009 (and hopefully it is changing back to where quality over commodity rules) if a painting doesn’t nearly sell itself from a wall, then the art is not successful. In this vein, the artist is dropped from the roster. If the artist doesn’t sell, then the gallery doesn’t support. Pretty direct in my case these past 10 years. An example: In the 80’s my work would sell regularly from a gallery. Also galleries supported an artist more fully than today. When the 90’s started, the art market began to show less interest in art and more in kitsch because kitsch seemed to be where the big bucks were. And big bucks ruled. My sales for the 90’s was dismal. By 2000, my sales were almost 0. No gallery wanted to handle my work. There were no $$$$ (dollar signs) connected to what I was doing. No galleries were interested in me if there was no possible future or money for them in it. And, there was no real interest in investing time via advertising (group and solo shows, print, etc) offered by a commercial gallery. Popular culture had won this battle.+

Q:
A: No. I am not bitter. I understood this problem of self isolation from the very beginning; 1960 or so. ABEX was on the wane then, but I hadn’t entered the art scene yet; and was naive in many ways to painting and the art market (what was an art market to me as an Iowa bumpkin in 1960?). so I set out making the art I wanted to make. Still am doing this today.

Q:
A: Today, 2009, I am hoping that art will be placed back into the art market equation. I would also like to see art education put back into our schools. There has been a steady removal of art in schools over the past 30 years. Bad times = take art out of the schools; funding issues (they say). And who runs the schools? This is another story. Back to my point. Increased art education for the public plus the return of art to galleries should improve my situation. I am nearing 70 so I don’t think this will realistically happen in my life time. I will be grateful to be represented somewhere by a gallery who can tell the difference and is willing to support art and money equally and not money over art. An equality between art and moneyed will be a more successful strategy for selling art in the future (I believe). A point: When looking at old master paintings, the junk still is junk and has no value. The good stuff still is the good stuff and still demands the highest prices and widest viewing. This is a truth then and should be a truth for the future.

10:21 AM 7/10/2009 (date written)

My life with abstract expressionism

What does this sentence really mean? It means this! From my start in 1960, when I first took making art as a serious part of my life, I was very impressed with the work of many of the more famous abstract expressionist painters at that time. The most influential painters, for me, were: W. deKooning, H. Hofmann, Philip Guston, R. Motherwell, James Brooks, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Nicholas de Still, Afro and Tapies. Lesser painters that interested me at that time: Miro, Matisse, Giocometti, Francis Bacon — some others that I can’t remember at this time. I didn’t respond very well to the work of Picasso or Jackson Pollack. I don’t have a very good reason why I didn’t respond to them, I just didn’t. Remember! At that time I was very new to the world of art and painting and was very ignorant to what was going on at the time. Before I forget it, I did not respond to the new painting thinking at the time reflected in the works of Rauschenberg, Warhol, any of the geo painters (old or new).

I responded to realist painters old and new because I respected the technical issues required to paint realistically; especially the patience required to do it. I was too impatient to struggle through the learning how to paint 3-d forms. Eventually I settled down and learned all of this; especially by the end of my graduate school daze in 1967; working full time with this aspect of painting from 1969-1973. At the end of 1973 I realized that I wasn’t a good story teller and stopped painting realism. And I never found a way to use realism (the human figure mainly) in a non-narrative or literary way. I couldn’t wrap my brain around not connecting realism to stories. Go figure?

Back to my roots in Ab Ex. Retrospection and reflecting on what and how I felt about painting 1960, and to this day 2009, I never really operated with Ab Ex from a true emotional center. I used Ab Ex from a perceptual position much like the Appropriationist artists of the 1980’s used the visual ideas of other artists in their work. As I remember talking to myself in the years 1960-64 (undergrad years at Iowa) and 1964-1967 (graduate years at Iowa) — I used visual snips from Motherwell, from Guston (main man during graduate years), from deKooning, etc. I liked certain elements of all these painters and used from them what I needed to build my paintings. I still do this today 2009.

IN this light, my paintings are intellectual constructions of visual ideas made up of [from] a history of seeing paintings by other artists (all historical years and models) coupled to my own history of painting stuff (some mine and most borrowed [appropriated]). In this sense, my paintings are not abstract expressionist works at all. Somewhere in all this structuring, my personality enters; my use of design, color, line, shape, size, texture is all me; all my personality; all my unique signature in the same way as my handwriting is all me even though I use the same methods to formulate the letters when I write (we have to leave out the computer or typewriter here, although the sentence structure and the way I use the word and sentence structures is also the real me).

From about 1986 onward, I began to use the computer to aid me in my painting by creating works unique to the computer and works that combined my painting structure with the digital structure. Today I use the computer as an aid to 1) start paintings, 2) solve painting problems by using a digital picture of a painting in process, make changes on the digital image before making actual changes to the painting itself; this is especially useful when working on large paintings – it removes the time required to make a change – do it digitally first (often several times to find a likeable solution), then making the change. I have used the computer to create an image, then enlarged this image and painted it. Throughout this phase of computer related painting (1995-2006) the question of “why copy? Why enlarge through paint itself? Why do it again?” was always in my mind. I wanted to simply print these images on canvas and let it go at that but never had the funding required to do this. So large format prints on canvas were never made. It would have been fun to enlarge the digital images, print to canvas, then either leave alone or work back into these images; to see where this could have gone. Oh well! Never happened; probably never will. No longer interested.

In final analysis (at this time – the beat goes on) I am not a true Abstract Expressionist. I am an appropriationist. I appropriate snips from other painters and recombine them with my own snips and make a painting or set of paintings. My painting sets rarely repeat themselves totally. In my most inner sanctum I never want to repeat myself. Robert Rauschenberg speaks to this thinking and expresses my sentiments on the topic/subject of repeating oneself or copying what another painter does; I paraphrase: “If it has been done already by someone else, I don’t want to do it because the problems or issue specific to the image/painting has been solved. If i solved a problem in a painting or set of paintings, the thrill is gone when repeating the solution for the sake of making a painting.”

How this works: I have an idea. This idea is usually rather foggy in its mental configuration. I start a painting by using an element that pops into my conscious mind; the first solution idea. I make this move. I study the painting. I have another “first solution idea” and make the corresponding move. I have another “first solution idea” and make this move. This continues indefinitely as, for me, a painting is never completed. I just stop getting the first solution ideas and resulting moves. All of this painting experience is very much like what happens to Bill Murray in Ground Hog day. The life of a painting is a continual set of building upon a new awakening.

2:50 AM 7/13/2009: My painting life, thus, is a journey where through my painting I am forever arriving at something. I spend my time in the studio traveling and searching for clues, ideas, methods, materials. The vehicle for this travel is my painting.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOH! The medium is very much an actor in this formula. The medium is the message? Maybe???!!!! The medium carries the message? What is the difference? Or. The medium is just the medium and I enjoy using it because of my interest in how it feels or doesn’t feel. The medium is the subject? Yes? NO? So it becomes a play where the medium, the snip, the color, the line, the shape, the texture, the size, are all actors responsible for revealing the plot of the piece. This plot can be nothing more, or nothing less than a display of these actors themselves.

Now we get away from painting and move into the realm of literature, philosophy, religion. None of this is what my paining is about. From this position – call it interpretation, “what it means”, etc – I have tried over the years to explain what my painting means, or is. Specifics change over time. At times I question this myself. As I write this 11:09 AM 7/10/2009 my best effort states this: my paintings are abstractions, mostly non-objective [no relationship to the visual world as we know it] and express a meaning (if there is one) through color, shape, size, yada ; creating, for some individuals, an emotional response [which is acceptable to me] and in some individuals a verbal response [most of the time a verbal response means HUH?] and is not acceptable to me 100% of the time unless the verbal response reflects the individual’s personal connection. My paintings are best understood as mirrors; reflection the individual’s zeit geist. Also, I would be very happy if my paintings were accepted and experienced as if they were visual music.

Enuff said at this time in a flash moment of clarity that just went away 11:15 AM 7/10/2009.

dpn

2:37 AM 7/13/2009: When an artist works primarily with abstracted forms (from nature or not), or non-objective (no objects intended; no photography), he/she cannot be specific trying to attach a meaning to these paintings. My definition for abstraction is that it is a process of leaving out details. Expounding further, in a non-objective sense, all physical, photographic-like detail has been removed from a painting. All that remains on the 2-d surface is paint, color, shapes, lines, and texture. In a psychological sense, an abstract painting morphs into a Rorschach identity. Thus, the artist/maker may have inserted his/her meaning but by the nature of the non-objective identity of the painting, a viewer will never really know what the painter’s intentions are/were. So, the perceiver must then apply his/her own meaning factors to or from the painting; let the painting speak to them from an autobiographical position. This is where my “mirror” concept comes from. Going to an extreme with the mirror analogy, all of us perceive 100% of our inner and outer universe entirely alone; up close and personal to ourselves; responsible to ourselves only in the end [what end?]. We cannot get into another’s skin at all; period!

MY PAINTINGS
PREAMBLE • PART I

At the outset if [I, we, you] regard a work of art as fusion of form and content then an artist [painter] creates an action in the painting covering form transforming subject matter into content. Also at this outset let us agree as [me] artist/painter and you [reader/audience] that this simple definition is arguable. I use it only as a reference point. I have been writing this definition in way too many writings and in way too many diverse directions over the past 50 years to continue it here. I simply want to strip away the bs and set down a base definition of what my paiting is to me so it means something to you; so you can engage in my painting instead of running away from it.

In very basic terms, my painting is about the making end of this activity and comes in two parts:

1) Internal information based on what can be seen in the work itself and can be divided into three categories: subject matter, medium, and form.

* Subject matter refers to those recognizable people, places, or events in the work for realism; shapes, colors, texture, etc.; for nonobjecive works — the paining itself.

* Medium refers to the material the work is made from. Medium, for me is also a subject for a painting.

* Form refers to the way the artist shapes the subject with the medium. In non-objective and non-representational work, medium and form may well predominant with no identifiable subject matter.

and 2) External information includes data about the time in which the piece was made, its social and intellectual environment, other works by the same artist, and work by other artists of the same period.

PREAMBLE • PART II

Once a painting is made the following aspects of my work are out of my control:

3) Interpreting: As maker and viewer we both do this from our own life history; including knowledge and/or the lack of knowledge on the subject of painting as a fine art. Set this aside. I as the maker can help the viewer understand my activity and its results by outlining the internal information as best I can. The internal information is very up close and personal to the artist/maker. It becomes a situation of how aware of detail in this internal information the artist is and how willing he/she is about revealing it. I tend to not want to reveal much of it as a lot of how I feel or what I think the internal information is can seem embarassing to admit what it is. I tend to not want to reveal that warts exist. Quite simply I don’t want to reveal to a reader/audience/viewer that I don’t know what my painting really is. Yikes!

3a) Interpreting external informaton: External evidence consists of information located outside the work itself: The artist’s other work, biography, gender, race, age, the social, political, religious preference, place [where the work was made], and time in which the work was made. Interpreting external information, for me, is also speculation. Points of data are certainly arguable as to their definitions and what elements that should be included or excluded. Interpreting external information also can be wrapped in philosophy.
However, all this being said, I believe that we all have to agree works of art [painting/s] are about something. I and you interpret our best understanding of the evidence presented [in a painting or paintings].

4) Evaluating: This activity focuses on judging the artistic merits of a work of art according to standards either learned academically or experiencially. These standards need to be addressed, clearly defined and outlined, and argued. Evaluating becomes a very personal activity. For me, I think it best that to evaluate my painting requires an open mind; open to a wide variety of source material known to a viewer and if not known, left out of the evaluation at the time. To best understand and interpret my paintings, it is best to study what you don’t know. Accumulated knowledge of the processes included in the above will make the engagement experience with my paintings much richer. 50 individuals look at the same painings and come up with 50 individual evaluations. I like to think that the internal information the viewer brings to the experience also plays a part. Thus, in this aspect of the experience, my paintings are mirrors. From this view, I ascertain that each individual that agrees to engage in one of may paintings or group of paintings will understand something that is revealed there. The specifics of this revealing may or may not be conscious and the feelings can run a gammut of human emotions. If my painting or paintings succeed the response to them is love or hate; never indifference. Indifference means that a painting has failed in some way for the viewer.

THE NITTY GRITTY• PART III
MY PAINTING IS

1) —about the medium and how it can be manipulated to construct an event-like interaction with a viewer. The event usually takes form as an emotional interaction. Sometimes the logic of this manipulation is obvious; sometimes not.

2) —about the medium and how its unique quality defines it. Each medium —be it oil paint, acrylic polymer paint, polyvinyl Acetate Paint, encaustic (hot and cold processes), watercolor, gouache, ink, pencil, crayon, etc.— creates its own unique mark on the same support using the same tool. Change the support and the mark will change also [see item 4].

3) I like to think that how I approach making a painting is closely related to how a Zen painter takes the time to create a meditative state within which to set down the brush and ink mark or marks. Directly related to this approach is my use of the surrealist technique of automatism.

4) My painting is also about the uniqueness of the support selected and how the medium of choice responds to this support when the paint is applied. Each support takes the paint differently. For example, visually compare how oil paint looks and feels when applied to paper (sized or unsized— each accepts oil differently), primed and unprimed canvas, primed or unprimed woods (different wood species also accept oil paint differenlty). Now take the samples described in 2) and observe the differences in each of the interactions between the medium, the support, and the application tools. This simple process, for me, has enuff mystery, problems, and excitement to engage me in exploring the same issues over and over and over. However, it is the nature of this making process that the same problem never really presents itself from one painting to the next.

5) My painting is about color. Attach color to all that has been described so far. For me it is a tall order to make sense of how this stuff functions at the basic making level; making a mark on a support with a medium and a selected color using a selected tool. I keep hoping the next painting will clear a mystery. It doesn’t. Then on to the next painting. On and on!

6) Whew! What is next? The next painting takes this exploration to a next order. Defining the order is a topic for another discussion. Defining the order or discussing this order is the stuff of philosophy and speculation. It takes my painting deeper into the realm of the personal. Herein lies an elementary fact regarding order. We as individuals like and dislike something according to a privately designed rule or paradigm; personal preference if you will.

7) At first, when I started painting in 1960, I really liked the abstract expressionist painters of the first and second generation. I had a strong emotional-feel-good-response to what I saw. It didn’t take me very long to realize that I didn’t feel the same experiences they did when they formed this approach to painting [art making] in the 1940’s. First, I am not an urban person; born and raised in a small city in Iowa. Second, I liked what I saw mainly through magazine illustrations. There was little or no actual samples of this kind of art to see, feel, etc. where I lived. I had to imagine what surfaces were all about; how the paint was handled and applied. I saw my first in-person abstract expressonist painting in the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1965; Hans Hofmann’s yadayayay. I melted before the painting. When I tried to paint this way I got discouraged in a hurry. I discovered that I wasn’t Hans Hoffman and my attempts to use his structures and color didn’t come close to “being” in the same way. I had to adjust my painting to “be” me. I am still adjusting today in 2009! Over the years I tried-on other artists as I learned of them only to get discouraged quickly. They weren’t me either!

8) My painting 2009 is still all about what I have described so far. Over the years my programs swing between simple structures, which are somewhat minimal or sparce, and structures that are complex and busy. I am not an abstract expressionist! Although I appropriate some of their outward visualness. I focus on the medium and its unique qualities, how it holds color, brush stroke and other elements this uniqueness reveals.
I haven’t mentioned space and painting. Yes! My work incorporates space. Space is a secondary issue to medium and color.
I haven’t mentioned psychology and painting. I haven’t mentioned literature and painting. I did mention emotion and painting. I don’t consciously use psychology or literature as a structure in my painting. I am a horrible story teller so I don’t use literature or tell stories with my art. Following closely to this, I don’t place hidden or classic psychological attachments to my colors, textures, spaces, sizes, or techniques. I do, once in a while, like to use a surrealist element of surprise; something, an element, that when observed within a painting, doesn’t seem to fit and clashes, or indifferently exists in the painting. These surprise elements sometimes offer no logic to their existence in a painting. I will place a word or a number in a painting because I wanted to include it for what it is. Simple to me. No logic to others.

9) Projects 2009: Acrylic polymer paint on canvas, paper, linen, and wood; encaustic (hot wax) painting on wood, paper, linen, and cotton. Approach: Generous involvement in the Automatism process to make 2-D visual art; some use of appropriation— using solutions by other artists because, frankly, I find it easier to use their solution to solve a painting problem— saves me time and mental energy; generous use of various tools to manipulate the paint and color. Conscious restrictions: 1) do not tell stories, 2) do not use realism as this opens the door to literature in my painting.

10) My painting and a general reference to a definition of what my painting is in context of this writing— simple is good and drawn-out explanations tend to get lost on personal and hermetic philosophy on what I think painting is generally and what my painting is to me.

11) Up to this point in my life, this is what I believe to be my painting and what it is about.

David Novak
Matthews, NC
Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Writing for my blog

Out of sight out of mind?  Or old age and a failing memory?  I see that my last entry in this blog was October 23, 2008.  I wish I could say that I have been too busy to keep this blog updated.  Not true.  I am lazy pure and simple.  I think about including something, then procrastinate, then nothing happens.  I am, after all, a professional procrastinator.

This being said, I write something on a daily basis.  I record studio notes and save them on computer as text files.  Sometimes these notes are used as reference for future studio work or as a base for creating statements on my web site.  I find something on the web and record a comment about this find.  I also save these notes as reference for creating blog entries.

I have decided it is now time to begin an update process for this blog.  I will start where I left off in October 2008.  The directory on my hard drive where I store my writing has 594 files dating back to 2002; 223 date from October 1, 2008 to now.  No!  I don’t plan to include all of them.  Some of these files are very incomplete and exist as outlines or just a word or two.  From this main set of 223 writings, I have selected 32 that, to me, seem appropriate for publishing here.  From this edited set of 32 I am preparing only 15 writings to be edited and published.  I will work forward from 10.01.08 to now; 06.14.09 will be the first piece offered titled “My Paintings”.

Celebrity theory 101
When The Art Bubble Bursts Into A Splash  by  Elizabeth Currid

Goto:  http://gawker.com/news/celebrity-theory-101/when-the-art-bubble-bursts-into-a-splash-293722.php
To view article pics and additional blog commentary

You read Us Weekly for the articles. You can’t help but be interested in what Lindsay Lohan snorted, ran her car into or slept with this week. But, you went to college, you read the new Chabons and Lethems as soon as they come out! You’re not a vapid person! Good news: Celebrity is not only a major driver of the economy, it’s a subject worthy of academic scrutiny. University of Southern California professor Elizabeth Currid, PhD., explains the sociology of fame and pop culture.

Elizabeth writes:

The art world has a problem with itself, verging on self-loathing. No, I’m not talking about the impending bubble bursting that will render currently celebrated (or at least expensive) art work valueless. I’m not talking about the transformation of starving artists into celebrities who sashay about town with socialites and end up in the gossip columns alongside Paris Hilton or Jay-Z. They are both only symptoms of a bigger concern: Art is no longer just the stuff on museum walls or in wealthy collectors’ homes.

Art has become a marketable and highly successful commercial product that can be sold in many different forms, across many different genres, to lots of different people, and that success is creating a rupture within the art world between artists who believe that art should remain elitist and artists creating those commercialized products who believe art should be a part of everyday life for all different types of people. For sure, the translation of art into a commodity has been big business since Andy Warhol, who famously aspired to be a “business artist.” But never have we observed it with the gusto and ubiquity seen in today’s commercialized art. And nowhere is this more present than in the street art movement.

A stroll through the art districts of New York or Los Angeles or London gives you a sense of the buzz surrounding the contemporary street art movement—something unseen since the days of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Lines stretch around the corner for Los Angeles-based artist Shepard Fairy’s opening. The photographer Ryan McGinley became the youngest artist with a solo show at New York City’s Whitney Museum for his startling images of young graffiti artists, “The Kids Are Alright.” banksyThe anonymous London-based graffiti writer Banksy’s show in a downtown warehouse in LA brought celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie along with 50,000 visitors. In the three days the show was open, every single piece of artwork sold. The Soho-based gallery Deitch Projects has become a pivotal force in the art world, forecasting the next rising star with frightening accuracy.

These days, New York City artists are playing a significant role in driving the city’s economy. According to the Alliance for the Arts, a New York-based arts advocacy and research organization, in 2005 arts industries (ranging from theater to art galleries to commercial art) generated $8.2 billion in wages, $904 million in taxes, 160,300 jobs for New York City. If you consider what economists call the “spillover effect,” which is all the restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs that arts patrons also go to when they attend art openings, museum exhibitions, comedy clubs or the Tribeca Film Festival, the arts have an overall impact of $21.2 billion on New York City’s economy. Art galleries alone contribute $38 million in taxes and $420 million in wages, with an overall economic impact of $1.4 billion to New York City’s economy.

Despite all the hype, some within the graffiti world resent the invasion of their subversive clique by wealthy art collectors, masses of gallery goers, and Abercrombie & Fitch-wearing co-eds. Thus has it always been: Success breeds disgruntlement and resentment. People have complained about the “undeserved” success of their peers for a long time. But instead of breeding nasty cocktail party chatter, this resentment over artists’ “selling out” has bred something new: A campaign of violence (whether of actual or perceived danger) and intimidation against commercially successful artists.

In June, some kid lit a stink bomb at a Shepard Fairey opening in Brooklyn. Last November a hooded figure distributed propaganda flyers at a panel discussion that featured the street artist Swoon. And the last year has seen dozens of anonymous attacks on well-known street artists’ work throughout New York City by “the Splasher” (widely believed to be a curmudgeonly vandal collective), who throws buckets of paint on the art work, destroying it in the process, and leaving anarchist messages like “destroy the museums, in the streets and everywhere.” They also fancy themselves to be journalists, printing a mindless little treatise with the phrase “If We Did It, This Is How It Would’ve Happened” on the cover (a seeming play on the maybe-to-be-released OJ Simpson fictional tell-all) and a picture of a destroyed Fairey piece.

splasher1.jpgThese attacks are not just for kicks. The attacks have been directed mainly toward street artists who have been able to translate writing graffiti into making a living. The attackers’ fear is ostensibly invasion of the mainstream—save us from the pathetic masses coming from the Midwest or Pennsylvania or the Upper East Side to buy our culture. That this apprehension outweighs supporting artists’ who are actually creating livelihoods out of their passion reeks of jealousy and resentment masked as self-righteous art snobbery. When it comes down to it, the Splasher(s) and his/her/their ilk (those who believe commercially successful artists are sell-outs) come across as losers who are pissed that their artwork wasn’t good enough to get its own gallery show so they had to destroy someone else’s. These stunts are the straw man equivalent of hating the Prom Queen because she’s beautiful but pretending it’s because she’s a bimbo.

I’m not suggesting the dissent or disagreement is stupid—it’s not—but throwing buckets of paint is. For more constructive, pointed, creative responses to the commercialization of art, consider the recent flurry of attention London artist Damien Hirst is getting for his latest installment of absurdity: “For the Love of God,” a skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, which, with an asking price of over $100 million, is the most expensive piece of art ever made by a living artist. You may or may not like Hirst’s formaldehyde sharks, millions of dead butterfly wings or chopped up cows. His latest creation can be looked at as hilarious genius or simply an exercise in rococo kitsch. But even the critical responses to Hirst’s work represent everything art dialogue could be. The Polish artist Peter Fuss is selling a parody, “For the Laugh of God,” a skull encrusted in almost 10,000 fake diamonds. lauraAnother artist, known as “Laura”, dumped a skull of her own with Swarovski crystals and a pile of trash outside of London’s WhiteCube Gallery where Hirst’s skull was being shown. Or consider the recent gag at the MoMA, “Excuse me, is this a work of art?,” which entailed artists putting up signs complete with artist names, date of creation and origination in front of banal objects like water fountains, bathroom sinks and fire extinguishers, incorporating them into the museum’s collection. Or Banksy’s dozens of clever commentaries (and pranks) on the art world that are actually pieces of art in their own right. Creating a dialogue about what is good or bad art is important for the future of the art world, but at the very least the responses should be thoughtful and intelligent, not just thinly-guised jealousy towards an artist who became successful or famous.

Those within the art world who resent the commercial success of fellow artists who get book deals or commissioned work for fashion houses or sold out shows really need to think about what they really think they’re up against. Is it that street art is getting respect and admiration from the general public not just art collectors and gallery owners? Is it that these artists’ are able to hold down full time jobs as artists and not have to work part time as waiters or Starbucks baristas? Is it that these artists have become successful in a variety of different cultural ventures ranging from magazines to sneaker designs to clothing companies?

It strikes me that the anti-commercial sentiment within the art world ironically exhibits the very same “short cut to celebrity” that its followers rally against. Isn’t throwing buckets of paint on famous graffiti and having your protests written up in major national newspapers just another version of getting attention the cheap and easy way?

One might argue that commercial success is not the same thing as artistic success, but Warhol taught us that things can be otherwise. Business art was the ultimate validation of one’s aesthetic skills. If people bothered to buy an artist’s work then by extension one could conclude that the artist was producing good art. These days, the intimate relationship between money and successful art means that really good art sells. And maybe some good art doesn’t sell, but when the bohemian art demigod Ryan McGinley gets hired to do photography for the New York Times and has an entire project devoted to documenting Kate Moss, one might say that the economic market validated what the art world already knew: McGinley is an art superstar. His commercial success is merely a signal of his brilliance. Art goers can bicker endlessly about whether commercial art validates or detracts from the virtue of an artist, but ultimately this is an existential debate: The reality is that given the opportunity to make a living out of making art, many artists will choose to do so and there’s really nothing wrong with that.

When I interviewed Shepard Fairey several months ago for the research I conduct, he (like the other artists I spoke with) bore no ill will toward either the masses or the elite art world. He just wanted to do what he loved to do, and he was happy that it had been a successful venture that allowed him to provide an income for himself and own his own company. He also told me that it was important that he was able to get his art out there to as many people as possible. As he put it, “I can make pieces that are expensive but I want to sell $35 screen prints and $25 T-shirts. Where I am coming from in my work is that art is empowering. I want people to be able to access me…I never started as a fine artist and felt like a ‘sell out’. I went in the opposite direction. I really like the street artist – you didn’t have to submit to a gallery or a magazine, you just went out and did it…A T-shirt is a walking piece of art. When I do a record label’s album cover, I am producing art that gives people pleasure while listening.”

I’m not exactly sure what’s worth making a “splash” about other than the fact that street art is actually getting the respect and public interest it deserves. Isn’t that what art was always about in the first place?
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Elizabeth Currid is assistant professor at University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning and Development. Her first book, The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art and Music Drive New York City, will be published by Princeton University Press this September.

6:04 PM on Mon Aug 27 2007

automatism with a heavy filter

8:11 AM 7/16/2008 [original draft]

automatism with a heavy filter

also see the artist as a filter

My definitions of automatism and how I use it:

Automatism as a “pure” process in art making is virtually impossible to achieve.  An artists process involves making history and life history and it is impossible to eliminate this history from a person’s process, let alone an artist’s process when making art.  All of this experience and education becomes the “stuff” that makes up how the artist is a filter.

If a painter could somehow tap into a “pure” automatism making state, there would be no style.  All of the elements that make up a particular piece would follow the laws of chance and random.  A painting would only be formed from the artistic choice of medium and support; scale; etc.  The design would have no connection to the artist per se; thus forming a design similar in structure and color as what might show up in a rock.

diversity discussion, again!

8:52 AM 5/16/2008 [original draft]

diversity discussion, again!

my art work is like handwriting; all from the same hand, just different content.  There are distinguishing identity marks embedded.  Sometimes they aren’t readily apparent.  Even when I use a particular artist as a filter or aid, the final results come close to the originator, sometimes, but most often my handwriting will come through in the way I handle the brush or something similar.

I don’t know why the diversity issue bothers me so.  I have had this issue bouncing around in my brain for over 40 years; since graduate school daze.  When I get off this treadmill and just work, everything comes out fine.  I think this issue,for me, is an insecurity issue.  Also it is a product of my impatience.  Also it is a product of my interests in never stepping into the same river twice; i don’t like to repeat myself; making more than one image look-a-like tends to become a boring activity and I want painting to be exciting and dynamic.

12:23 PM 6/13/2008 Update:  While reading an article on the paintings of Sam Francis [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_7_37/ai_54169955/pg_3] , these words rang a bell for me; “And it was when the assembly line really started cranking that his work began to turn a bit stale, a bit predictable.”  Translating these words to fit into my scheme of making art, to me I have a long running fear of making stale and predictable art by making images that are similar; or making images in long sets;  by repeating myself.  I don’t want to repeat myself.  On special occasions I want to explore an idea in-depth,  then I will create images in series.  Example, I am working on a set of paintings on paper, wood, and cloth centering on a concept of mantle (fireplace mantle I guess — dunno, just like the idea of a mantle).

12:45 PM 6/13/2008:  Also as my mind jumps from place to place revealing only what it can reveal, so do my paintings throughout a session- jump from one image to another (sometimes).  Usually, as I work each painting influences the next one.  I see something that I just painted and it sparks energy to make something else.  I just follow the impulses and paint.  If I procrastinate the intuition, then the process stops dead in its tracks and the session is dead.  I have to start all over again.  Sometimes it never restarts for that day.  Automatism makes this so.  Automatism creates the life in my painting.  Questioning the first solution idea/move automatically stops the process.  This is what I observe and experience in the studio.  This is what makes all of this so exciting.  It can be a problem for a viewer who wants to see logical progression from one painting t another over a period of time.  Well, there is logic.  It comes in the form of Dada and Automatism.  Wrap your mind around this and you can wrap your mind around my painting.  It is that simple.