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“Monochromatic Halcyon”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 84

18 Apr

Monochromatic Halcyon 14x14

 

I moved to Chicago from Las Vegas to a less than modest flat on the 5th floor at “The Envoy” out in the Bryn Mawr historic district of Chicago, IL. My days were spent reconfiguring the 10x10x10 Series during the brutal blizzard winter that was happening at the time. My days consisted of battling the snow while walking to a quiet Swedish start up restaurant in Andersonville called “Summerdale”, and coming home to paint into the wee hours of the morning.

At this time I was heavily reflecting on all the work I had done, and simultaneously focusing on what I could do to make it better.

One piece in particular, was “Dimension Mouse”, which entailed mirroring the work of Bridget Riley and her geometric psychedelic works of the 1960’s. I felt particularly sensitive to my portrayal of the work, mainly due to her exhibition at “The Art Institute” museum out near the loop in Chicago.

I came home from this exhibition and started something far more complex… and this is where “Monochromatic Halcyon” stemmed from.

This piece is a redo of “Dimension Mouse” which I had done at the beginning of 10x10x10 out in Los Angeles. This piece entitled “Monochromatic Halcyon”, is based off the works of Bridget Riley and her geometric pieces that were so revered back out in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

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“Mary’s Magical Metropolis”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 74

4 Feb

Mary's Magical Metropolis

It’s interesting to find, when I’ve taken a retrospective tour of what visually guided me as a child, that I would end up here in the present, working for the very same entity that contained those influences.

I never thought that the repetitive process of watching Alice in Wonderland and my fascination with its background art work at 8 years old would somehow impact me in my work later on.

But really, when we look at the cognitive process of artists from their childhood, how could it not?

When I look at all the similarities to what I was attracted to visually with Disney as a child, I came up with this astounding commonality, that all the work was done by Mary Blair. From Saludos Amigos, to The Little House, Cinderella, Alice, and beyond.. these were all my favorites.

This would also explain why I would consistently board and reboard the Small World ride as a child. I have to give major credit to my parental units for dealing with that song OVER AND OVER again as I just sat there comatose, giggling, and drooling over all the shapes that passed through my eyes in that boat ride through the kaleidescoped wilderness of Mary Blair’s genius. .. only to have me scream “AGAIN!! AGAIN!!” when the ride ended.

As a young adult, pre-Disney, and struggling to understand myself, I found myself gravitating back to my childhood to figure out what were my major influences. In researching Mary Blair again, I found myself exhilarated by her story of being a prominent female in a world full of male animators and commercial artists. I found myself enthralled by her use of geometric architecture, and (while I couldn’t necessarily see it) the public’s response to her unique use of color. And sadly, I found myself heartbroken from all the years of pressure against her and her death in 1978.

This piece is called “Mary’s Magical Metropolis”, which reflects the whimsical architecture and color usage behind Mary Blair’s work. This runs as No. 84 in the TENxTENxTEN series.

“Exclamation Appointment”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 66

10 Oct

Exclamation Appointment 14x14

Back when I was a child in Georgia, my school had taken me to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. This was the place where I felt the most comfortable with my often eccentric thoughts and ideas. Armed with a walkman, I would peruse room by room, listening to music, and lose myself in the vaulted white walls that carried frames of contemporary art for me to contemplate. Art, back then, did not register as a thing to understand historically, but rather they were elements of introspection for my child self. Each canvas was like a mirror that showed me what I was really supposed to see. Each canvas was a sounding board for my infantile emotions.

I never registered much beyond that until I turned that fateful corner one day, and my eyes car wrecked into a Roy Lichtenstein painting. I saw this woman, splattered with dots, crying over her lover. My eyes could not take in what I was seeing and I felt my heart disconnect, reconfigure itself, and jumpstart my body into a million chills. This was the first time that art and I connected beyond the self.

My teacher eventually found me 45 minutes later, still staring at this piece.

“There are so many other rooms for you to see” she said.

“Yes but I can’t stop looking at this painting. I like this one the best”

25 years later, I still remember that moment when I connected with Roy Lichtenstein’s work. He was, and is, my greatest influence for my own body of work. His subjects, his precision, and his entire collection is paramount to anything I have ever seen. It was no surprise that he was the leading artist in the new art movement, and furthermore it was no surprise that he was my leading inspiration to paint.

This piece is called “Exclamation Appointment”, and is a tribute to Roy Lichtenstein’s work. This however was not formatted with Lichtenstein’s classic ben day dot approach. Instead I made 2,712 squares to the get the center point of 678 circles, and drafted them by hand. After much work, I removed 1/2 of the circles, and painted the background with Roy’s classic blue (Cerulean PG7x1/PB36x4/PW6x1). Because this piece took a lot of time, I carried this with me across the United States while traveling for work. This was painted in

Denver, Colorado
Anaheim, California
Philadelphia, Pennslyvania
Washington, D.C.
Brooklyn, New York
New York City, New York
Los Angeles, California

This marks as the 9th in the Contemporary Modern series, and 75th of the TENxTENxTEN collection.

“Cazador De Sueños”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 65

9 Oct

Cazador De Sueños 14x14

Further abandoning the sacred line and the safety of an enclosed geometric shape, I studied the formats of Neo-Expressionism and its dismissal of perfecting the ‘known object’. This is a hard concept when it comes to an icon like Mickey that does, for the most part, rely on its known shape to be considered authentic. Sure the shape can change to the aesthetic of the artist, and we’ve seen this with many artists (Ex: Keith Haring, Ron English, etc) and Mickey Mouse in the past… but formulating my own voice and aesthetic in a Neo-Expressionist fashion, without compromising the structure of the tenxtenxten regulations (the silhouette must remain the same)… well… it was just a different story.

In coming up with own voice, I decided to research through the pathways of one of the most notorious Neo-Expressionist painters, Jean-Michel Basquiat. This was somewhat of a dichotomous subject, as Basquiat’s work was mostly on sociopolitical gatherings rather than commercial commentary. Furthermore the idea of Mickey Mouse integrated as a main subject HAD to appear mentally salubrious to the viewer.

This provided a challenge.

I realized that this was a focus on aesthetic rather than actual parallel communicative content to Basquiat’s vision, and pushed further through the piece painting it as a surface level execution. This piece asks the question, how would a Neo-Expressionist painter approach the idea of visiting Disneyland and paint his or her transgressive experience?

That very question was answered in this piece.

This is called “Cazador de Sueños”, which means “Dream Hunter” in Spanish. It reflects an abstract vision of visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, California. There are areas here that relate to Disney such as “Main Street”, “Downtown”, “Parade” and “Fireworks! Ooh! Ahh! Yay! Kaboom!”, and carries familiar words associated with its brand like “Vista” on the left hand side and “Buena” on the right hand side (Buena Vista). There are two hats which say “Lost” and “Found” which represents beyond the surface level idea of a department, and more hones in on that ‘lost’ feeling we so often get in our lives, and that ‘found’ happiness we have when we visit the park. Beyond that, the central most hat with the eye represents an opened consciousness when coming to the park.. and that newfound vision of bliss we see when entering the park and enjoying all that Disneyland has to offer.

This comes as number 8 in the Contemporary Modern Series, and is number 74 in the TENxTENxTEN collection.

“Cerulean Alpha Centauri”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 40

17 Nov

I returned to New York City a month later after landing a May solo show at the famed gallery “Pop International” in SOHO. I wanted to revisit the city not only to reconnect to the curator/owner over there, but to continue the inspiration in my head that seemed to be exploding back and forth like a pinball in rapture. I had already completed “Mr. Busy Head”, the 2nd of Metropolitan series about New York City, but this time my visit was to focus on the Contemporary Modern series by revisiting the Whitney to see Steve Wheeler’s work, as well as the Guggeheim’s collection of Kandinsky and Picasso.

While in my friend Michael’s apartment on the upper west side on Central Park West and 75th, I sat there with a partially finished abstract expressionist piece focusing on Steve Wheeler’s “Laughing Boy Rolling”, and became slightly bored with the fact that everything had already been drafted and color coded. I felt doing any more work on the piece, now that it had been laid out, would have just been filler. I decided to roll up the canvas and store it to finish in my studio in Los Feliz (Los Angeles, CA). I grabbed a new canvas and started staring blankly at the piece. I wanted to create something spontaneous…. something stream of consciousness that would be completely done in New York City.

I grabbed colors here and there and just started working on the piece which rested on a side table in the living room. I started thinking beyond just geometric shapes… (which is what I will ALWAYS initially gravitate towards). After laying a coat of warm colors down on the face, I decided to work on mixing the matte acrylic down and using the tip of my brush to flicker paint on the face.

At the same time I was doing this, I was hearing on NPR about the recent news about “Alpha Centauri” and this discovery of a new planet in its binary star system. While the broadcaster was talking about this, I began to parallel how stars in the sky always looked like Jackson Pollock masterpieces. I decided to tape up the Mickey and do a night sky with stars splattered against its surface in relation to the news. The sun rose and set in the New York City sky that day, and I don’t think I ever left the apartment. While the taxi’s honked and the people flittered about walking and talking below me in the city streets, I focused on creating a busy star splattered piece about Mickey Mouse.

This piece is titled “Cerulean Alpha Centauri” based off the galaxy like splatters, was primarily done with Holbein Matte Acrylic labeled “Cerulean Blue”. This is number 45 in the collection, and falls under the “Contemporary Modern Series” for its Pollock like reference. Here is a little video I look about the process in New York City over this creation.

“Abstract Space Invaders”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 39

17 Nov

 

While viewing the Yayoi Kusama retrospective and the “Fireflies on the Water” exhibit at The Whitney Museum in NYC, I had a chance to view their 2nd floor collection entitled “Signs and Symbols”. In this room I got to see one of my favorite art pieces of all time called “Laughing Boy Rolling” by Steve Wheeler. Mesmerized, I spent 45 minutes walking back in forth in front of this painting, while simultaneously gazing here and there at work of Ted Faiers that hung nearby. I was in heaven primarily because I was seeing for the first time the original works of a rare art movement.

Steve Wheeler was an abstract expressionist that belonged to the sub group called the ‘Indian Space Painters’. While the term is contemporarily deemed politically incorrect, and rightfully so, this subgroup actually paid a positive homage to the cultural style and heritage of Native American art. Steve Wheeler, while born in Slovakia, immigrated to America as a young infant by his parents who were searching for a better life. They resided in New Salem, Pennsylvania, where his father worked as a coal miner in the town. At 16, Wheeler found himself working in his father’s footsteps in the same mines, and claims to have found his calling deep in the dark tunnels of his toiling labor. It was here that Wheeler heard the voice of an oracle deep in the mines telling him of his destiny to be an artist. Steve, now determined to reach this lofty goal, continued to work in the daytime as a coal miner, and educated himself at night as an artist in his small attic bedroom. He then later moved to New York City, and dedicated the first half of his life to being a painter. Wheeler’s executions were geometrically sound and flawless, often going above and beyond in complexity of most cubist abstract expressionists at that time. His attention to detail combined with his clever merging of his influence of Northwest Native American art aesthetic made him a rising star within the small group of Indian Space Painters. He was known as an eccentric, often labeled as arrogant and sometimes even belligerent, but nonetheless a genuis. Wheeler spent the 2nd half of his life as a recluse and for 40 years until his death, he did not paint.

I’m gathering that my obsession over Steve Wheeler had half to do with his incredibly complex and detail oriented work, and half to do with his life and his behavior. The 45 minutes I spent grazing like an obsessed buffoon in front of his work was mostly due to my imaginings of him creating his pieces. I wondered what was going on in his head as he was creating this particular painting. and more importantly, how he felt when he completed it.

I flew back home to my studio in Los Feliz, and mulled around my drafting table for hours. I spent days drafting and redrafting my direction of this movement, consistently focusing and refocusing on my attempt to infuse Northwest Native American elements into an abstract expressionist piece. This is what emerged.

This piece is titled “Abstract Space Invaders” in homage to Steve Wheeler and what I’d like to politically correctly called the “Native American Space Painters”. This is number 44 out of the collection and ties into the Contemporary Modern Series.

“Ce N’est Pas Un Chapeau”, Contemporary Modern Series, No. 37

12 Nov

This piece entitled “Ce N’est Pas Un Chapeau”, is a part of the Contemporary Modern Series, and is in reference to Belgian surrealist, Rene Magritte. In order for me to fully understand the concept of pop, I wanted to research some of my predecessor’s predecessors. Magritte was one of the original pop movements influences (IE: Ruscha, Warhol, Johns) and in certain contexts he is considered to be the catalyst of the pop movement from his own ‘pop surrealism’ aesthetic.

I had never seen any of his work in person until my recent trip to The Metropolitan Museum in New York City. The piece that I had always wanted to see “Ceci Ne Pas Une Pipe” was displayed there (which funnily enough is normally at LACMA where it is permanently placed, but has been on tour I’m gathering forever). “Ceci Ne Pas Une Pipe” (translation: “This is not a Pipe”) or otherwise known as “La Trahison des Images” (The Treachery of Images, and/or “The Betrayal Of Images”) was a title that reflected the actuality of the painting, and in essence, all art where the titles reflected the nature of the work. The title was true, the image wasn’t an actual pipe, it was.. in fact a painting of a pipe. The statement of the work I thought was brilliant and to see the piece in person was fantastic.

This piece is in homage to his statement and aesthetic. It combines “Ceci Ne Pas Une Pipe” with his most noted piece “The Son of Man”, which Magritte paints an apple obscuring a man in a bowler hat’s face. Magritte mentions: “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” In Mickey, the clouds, that are found in most of Magritte’s work, obscure his face. Some clouds obscure parts of the face, while resting underneath others (example, the cheek and smile), furthering manipulating dimension and multiplying unseen layers that Mickey holds. In the hat, the words say “Ce N’est Pas Un Chapeau”, which means “This is not a Hat” in reference to Magritte’s main points of his work.