A New Series: "In the Abstract"

"In the Abstract (No. 3)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

Scattered around my studio are small proofs on off-cuts of panel, which they generally give me for free at the hardware store. Some of the experiments crumble, like one I made using a rough skin that sloughed off a palm tree, but others hold up, both materially and as abstract works.

The other day I was doing some cleaning and rather than chuck them in the bin as I normally do, I polished up a few of the promising ones, added humans, and came up with these paintings. I liked them enough I thought I'd do more and establish, if I can keep up the steam, a new series.

While I haven't thought it through, "In the Abstract," conceptually, has something to do with the condition of art today: purposefully ambiguous, cold and institutional, cynical, hyper individualist. I lament more than critique.

"In the Abstract (No. 2)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

I was in New York last week and got a chance to visit the big museums for the first time. I read recently that "The gateway drug is not creating art, it's experiencing it," and so that was what I had in mind.

While the galleries of abstract and conceptual art, especially of the lyrical sort, did captivate me in the way the artists used paint and other materials in new ways, I was struck by how little their work really had to say and how much of an art critic's thesis they had to push instead.

One panel at the MET explained how early abstract artists believed their art was more democratic because it could be experienced directly without a knowledge of art history or mediation by professionals, a theory I think most would agree has turned inside out.
"In the Abstract (No. 1)," 8x8in., mixed media on panel

At MoMA, straddled between art that held on to something recognizable and art that threw it all to the wind, was a piece that held my attention for longer than usual, by David Alfaro Siqueiros, the Mexican muralist, technical innovator, and political radical (of the Stalinist bastard sort).

"Collective Suicide," 49" x 6', lacquer on wood with applied sections, 1936

The title and themes may be harsh, but look at how the people and scenery have remained, and yet it isn't Bosch with his intricate renditions of hell, but rather uncompromisingly abstract, poured and dripped paint two decades before Pollack supposedly hit on the idea.

As Philip Guston exclaimed in another gallery, justifying his return to figuration and away from abstraction: "I got sick and tired of all that Purity! I wanted to tell stories."