Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Expressive sucks

Expressive sucks. The goal is not just to empty out, to show everything you feel. Who really cares how you feel. Maybe your mom, if you have that kind.

Spontaneity sucks. Especially when it’s related to Expressive. That candle burns fast and shallow. The goal is beyond loosening up.

Obsessive sucks. Get some Spontaneity, get Expressive.

Restraint sucks. Stop being so precious.

Thinking sucks. Don’t you hate smart art? The goal is not to make a point. Write a paper to make a point or do some public speaking.

Intention sucks. Art is aware of itself but not deliberate.

Art requires more and less than my current approach. Oh, were I only to have some Wild Style.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shut up and draw

(Carroll Dunham, Another Island, 1989-1999)

What can I do? I set out to draw rocks, trees and mountains, which I fantasized would be great metaphors, and nothing but cartoony tribal figures are coming out. At best they’re Saul Steinberg, or maybe Carroll Dunham, but I fear they’re really more Bart Simpson.

I can’t say that I like them, but I’ll continue, because I have no choice. That’s what’s coming out.

To remove the discomfort of not knowing where this is going, my initial urge is to immediately try to explain the work, categorize it. If I could show off a range of knowledge about how contemporary artists depict figures, about why some chose realism, about how choice and historical awareness is important, then what I’m doing becomes valid. So I think. But what really happens is that the drawing blocks.

Shut up and draw.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We shall overcome

(The bodies of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. From the doc "Neshoba: The Price of Freedom")

Most artists with a political conscience have found themselves alone in their studio or room at some point and wondered, “What good is this doing? I’m here and the world is burning outside.”

Some artists try to kill two birds with one stone and correct the world’s horrors directly through their art. But paintings of Abu Ghraib prisoners are not effective against torture and they don’t stand on their own as art. I’ve come to the conclusion that the distinction between visual art and political activism simply is.

On Friday, I was listening to Democracy Now while drawing. I walked over to the computer screen to watch footage of a young African-American boy in the ‘60s, tears rolling down his face at his brother’s untimely funeral, singing with determination “We shall overcome.”

Today, reading Doris Lessing, I noted these words:
Now, when I start writing, the first thing I ask is, ‘Who is thinking the same thought? Where are the other people like me?’ I don’t believe any more that I have a thought. There is a thought around.

Both elbow me. The only thing artists can hope for with their art is that by making it, by showing it, it overcomes. The spirit of art goes against the downward spiral – or at least attempts to – and that is not insignificant, for the artist personally, for any interested viewer, and as a symbol. And it inevitably belongs to a thrust of our times, no matter how weak that force may now be.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer Reading sans Stieg Larsson

(Valentino Achak Deng)

Other than the usual daily and weekly New York press, here’s my summer reading list so far:

Jane Bowles, Everthing is Nice – Very oddball stories written in the most formal, proper language. Nothing is in fact nice, although it wants to appear so (and that’s an outlook I’m a sucker for). She was the wife of Paul Bowles, whom I’d also like to read.

Dave Eggers, What is the What – A painful page-turner about the trials of a Lost Boy who fled Southern Sudan on foot to various refugee camps and then to the U.S. Not hardened, but gentle does the soul become through suffering and loss (unless you’re a Republican, of course). If you don’t feel lucky to lead the life you do after reading this, there is something wrong with you.

Doris Lessing, A Small Personal Voice: Essays, Reviews, Interviews – Her rock-solid, heart-filled voice proves that it’s the person you develop away from the typewriter through your own life and the true acceptance of contradiction that are key to making you a good writer.

Marc enjoyed the Hunger Games series about a scary, sci-fi reality television show and this might in fact make for more typical late-summer beach reading.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's happening

(Molly Stevens, Untitled (small drawing 3),2010, Oil Stick on Paper, 22" x 30")

It’s just that I don’t know where to take this blog. I’ve been writing twice a week for three years now as a way to organize my thoughts and also to activate my “web presence,” as they call it. I’m concerned if I stop now, I’ll become disorganized in my thinking and anonymous on the web. There’s white and there’s black. Always.

I could continue to write about shows. I could continue to complain about the art world and the inequities of becoming recognized. I could continue describing the processes of artmaking to myself and maybe to you. But I don’t really feel like it. No, I’m not depressed or discouraged, I just don’t feel like it. That said, if I feel like jumping off a bridge, should I? There’s what you feel, and then there’s what you do.

So, if I haven’t lost you all by now already, I hope you'll tune in next time.