Sunday, July 17

A Summer Tickle

A Summer Tickle Exhibition Postcard
Please drop by and see the finished version of my painting used above!

Monday, June 13

To Paint Like Terrence Malick Directs

I am determined to not write a review of the new Terrence Malick film, Tree of Life. But throughout watching the movie I was awestruck at Malick's flawless and Impressionistic visual construction. A short way through I realized Malick was painting a movie.

Initially I was impressed with the consistent tempo and camera movement carried over to each shot. This movie is about slow things - touch, contemplation and texture, about living and breathing. But for all that it moves. The editing is quick. Each jump picks up on the previous camera's movement whether forward, backward or up. I suppose this could be like a Three-Dimensional implied line or direction. In this case, Malick seems to imply a forever forward or changing direction of living - one that both absorbs understanding and then creates nostalgia to linger on what just passed.

Malick also makes each of those cuts a contrast. Warm hues are always followed by cool ones. Darks by light, and so on. And the tempo of these changes is also changed. It all becomes reminiscent of the way a painter would construct form or space - articulating everything by making changes of different sizes, flatness or tone.

Everyone touches - and they touch everything, a lot. But the camera does to. It doesn't sit back, it sits on shoulders or pulls back. It crawls up stairs in a suspenseful way. The camera is just as inquisitive as the characters are in their own discoveries.

But for being such a long movie, it's impressive how economical he is. The film takes long meandering, surreal turns into the Creation, but returns back to the life of a Texas family. For all this terrain, repeated and lived in for decades by this movie's timeline, Malick still manages to make each shot a separate stroke. Each one an opportunity for something new. In this fashion we are also experiencing the changing lives of these characters - but like the way a painting would, describing something new, or a new understanding of the same thing, with each stroke.

But most of all it's Malick's four-decade preparation for the movie - and the arduous searching for accidental footage of butterflies landing on actor's hands, or birds falling out of nests (with blockbuster actors no less) - that makes Tree of Life so painterly. It's studied and demonstrates classical structure but allows in the most important part: the accidental. Which, executed by a master like Malick, appears as it should on the finished canvas: having the appearance of being flawless and anticipated, but only so because he has spent such a disciplined time examining those potentials until he was able to effectively harness and articulate with them.

Tuesday, May 24

"Painting is not dead, it's just hard."

The Things They Carried 2011 Sarah Awad (via
Painting is the latest release in the Documents of Contemporary Art series by MIT. The Brooklyn Rail has a loving review of it here.

The book defends and celebrates the medium - as anything on painting today does. I think it's clear painting didn't disappear and it won't. It's almost as if the original declaration of Painting is Dead was simply to generate good conversation around the complex merits of painting for it's own sake in today's world.

Painting (via The Brooklyn Rail)
An artist in a studio near my own once told me that "installation is where it is" and followed by something to the affect of, "painting is over."

I don't buy it. I stick to painting simply because of it's tangibility - the tactility and almost humming quality of the act itself. And painting seems to involve depths I'll never exhaust.

But I do use other mediums - like photography - to paint. One included article in Painting is Jerry Saltz's The Richter Resolution. Saltz's article laments current painting's handicap on photographic reference. He misses what he calls paintings "weapons of mass destruction" or "drawing, color, surface, touch...."

One of paintings greatest wonders is it's ability to distill information. The medium is inherently about choices. And a good painting directs you and makes you believe in those choices. Meaning also that what is absent is believable too.

Photography does the same, but with different refinement. Painting as an act in itself, as in a repeated process of re-articulating something or re-imagining things, has taught me how to choose and to think. And it's sometimes painfully slow or nostalgically fast. But it carries layers and each painting ultimately has multiple moments of understanding of one thing.

Adding to that notion, The Rail's review ends with the anonymous quip, "Painting is not dead, it's just hard."

Friday, May 13

Letting Go with Style: Ben Grasso

Construction Proposal II Ben Grasso 2009 (via Phaidon)
Ben Grasso's paintings start as something whole - houses, sometimes tankers, cars or structured landscapes - and then let go into wood planks, shadows and shapes. Most often these things are being blown up or unhinged, as if someone were to introduce a tornado or disaster into the Americana landscape ideals of Winslow Homer.
Untitled (House) Ben Grasso 2006 (via I Heart My Art)

His images seem to straddle logic - or beg to be reconstructed with logic - but actually reveal pretty orderly painted relationships. For example even as unreal those houses pulling themselves apart into a cross sections may be in a literal sense, the pieces cast shadows, the walls and structures exist exactly in space.

It's where Ben Grasso decides with the paint that makes these images so interesting. Those planks of wood or explosive motions become strips of color - and the decisive choice colors making a form in space - become delicious. It doesn't matter after that what violent act surrounds those forms - although that just makes them even more interesting.

See also Ben Grasso's current exhibit at Thierry Goldberg Projects. Or see also Julie Mehretu who takes this into an entirely different abstract idea.