Sunday, February 19, 2012

On the Nature of Things, March 10 2012 500X Gallery

One of the trappings contemporary art that I try to avoid (like career advancement, ha ha) is the tendency of artist to make their process very opaque.  Work is presented and discussed as if the ideas emerged whole, exactly as you see them in their current state.  Artists, gallerists and curators all have an investment in this opacity because it helps to make the work seem somehow purer, and the artist more heroic.  To reveal that the thinking process behind the work is sometimes messy and convoluted, is to raise questions of NOT being a genius.

I believe this has a lot to do with the scourge of over-vocabularized artist statements.

My whole impetus to do this blog was as a way to get over the desire to hide behind an opaque wall of language.  I can do it as well as the next MFA-holder, but I also hate it. 

I've noted that my creative processes go in a certain rhythm of tension and release- at times tight, at other times loose.  Understanding which time is which can be challenging, and requires a sensitivity to my own particular needs and abilities, as I am working.  But my pattern of conceptualization seems to go something like this-
  • I do things.  I make things, aimlessly.  I mess around and fuck up and get mad and berate myself for not having a clean idea.
  • I chill out, and notice patterns in what I am doing, thinking about, and making.
  • I have a "flash" realization of the underlying structure of what I have been doing.
  • I go back into making things, but with a clearer sense of purpose and direction.
It's not always that clean and clear but as I look back, even to my undergraduate days, it's the same pattern happening over and over.  Not all the "flash" realizations are good, and sometimes the crap I am making along the way is just crap.

I had been planning on doing a landscape-based project using my portable darkroom, but a nasty gust of wind tippled my whole operation over last fall, and I had to face the fact that I just was not ready for that (though I am still tinkering with the portable operation and hope to have another version running this May).

So- it was back into the studio for me.  So, I started photographing books and pushpins and other random materials.  Shooting things in this kind of "frontal" style has been something I've done for twenty years or more, almost like doing copy-work.  It's not wholly inappropriate, as the Wet Collodion process was common as a graphic-arts reproduction technique for well into the 20th century, long after dry plate and flexible film had usurped it as the field-photographic method of choice, for very good reasons.

Shortly after I shot this image of the screen-door material, I got all excited about the idea of working with scotch tape, glass, an other semi-transparent materials, but in a way that they "recorded" the impressions of my working with them, by leaving fingerprints on the materials that would show up in the image.  Using powdered graphite, I had fun making this one-

This was all happy and everything, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  But I still had no idea what was to tie all this together.  It made sense on some level, but my thinking on it was basically like a manipulating a bag of marbles.  Books, fingerprints, copywork, transparency... jumblejumblejumble.

The "flash" came to me when I realized that the terms text and texture were too similar to not be related, somehow.  Mr. Google was pretty quick with an answer-

TEXO- latin, to weave; plait (together); construct with elaborate care.

Holy Shit!

Writing and language is a weaving of meaning...   Roland Barthes from The Death of the Author- "the book itself is only a tissue of signs"...  a woven fabric is the most luxurious of textures, and a beautiful way to define the very concept of texture and the sense of touch in general... my whole attraction to the wet collodion process is deeply tied to the fact that it can only be done with elaborate care...

It's hard to express how this conception hit me... I felt it physically.  It immediately made sense to me why this had made sense even when I didn't understand it- the physical photographic image is the most ideal way to express how concepts have a tactile presence because they are woven...

This realization really sent me off, and I'm still running on the energy of that single, bomb-like flash of thought.

The title of the show, On the Nature of Things, is another matter altogether and deserving of it's own post.

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