PRECOG LANDSCAPES AND THE LYRIC ESCAPE:
Five years ago, I was feeling real pangs for painting. I was without a studio and opportunistically drawing in journals whenever and wherever I could. This itinerant practice allowed me to hang-on as an artist, but I knew it was a stop-gap as I literally felt the gnawing for painting from within my rib cage.
When I acquired my current studio in 2018, I was elated to have found an autonomous environment that would provide an opportunity to a faster and freer process. At this transitional juncture, I embraced my deep and long standing relationship to music and its connection to my visual practice. While I relearned how to paint, I used synesthesia as an organizing principle and delved into mark-making (timbre), interval (rhythm) and palette (tuning), with intuition as my guide.
After two years of developing both a language and process with improvisational methods and music as prime inspiration, an odd painting emerged. landscape vowels (NE corridor), evolved slowly over many months and its completion preceded a road trip that I took from my home in Brooklyn, NY to North Carolina. A revelation occurred when I returned home from the 1,200 mile round trip drive. In the painting I saw symbolic representations of my highway views of the Shenandoah and Lehigh Valleys. I saw rivers and bridges, highway abutments and open fields. With absolute certainty, I understood that it was about my recent past and that the future had inserted itself into the painting.
This painting was a first in what has become a series that I consider ‘precog’ landscapes. All have been intuitively constructed, built-up with the same formal language that I use in all of my paintings, but what is of most interest to me is that their color, shapes and forms are no longer purely abstract and non-objective. They now depict places I am about to travel to.
In February 2021, the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti passed away. I watched an interview with him where he stated, “When present-day life gets too awful, there’s the lyric escape. You can write a lyric poem”. A light went on in my mind. Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had been struggling with the compression of city living. When working in my 100 square-foot studio, I do my best to transport out of the compact spaces I inhabit, and out of New York City entirely. I try to channel healing spaces that are both intimate and expansive such as the flat dunes of eastern Long Island or the rolling hills of upstate New York. In an entirely unplanned and organic way, with paintbrush in hand, this has developed into a tactic for my lyric escape.
SLIGHTLY WARMER THAN WARM:
Sometimes we cruise through decades of life without ever really understanding our own most basic and personal core traits and behaviors. They are not recognized because our radar is focused outwards. This show is about making discoveries of self and finding the connections between previously isolated thoughts, behavior and activities.
My twin affinities for music and art have been with me since teenage years, but the conceptual divisions came early. While enrolled as an undergraduate student at Hampshire college in the early 90s I was studying art, but I was playing music in a band. At the time, I never would have considered taking a music theory class. For me, being in a band was born out of the romantic notion of doing something collaboratively that was self-taught in the folk tradition of punk rock. I thought an academic training in music would “spoil” the purity of an informal, highly-personalized and intuitive approach to creating and organizing sound. I took this belief about stratification into the realm of visual arts, as well.
The individually hand-packaged mix tapes and cds I been making since the 80s almost invariably have collaged covers. Collage was the perfect creative approach for this sort of project because collage, like being in a band, did not require formal training. Both disciplines were aligned, in that one could be informed about them by the culture at large.
Over the last four years I have been gradually putting the puzzle pieces together. I can pinpoint the time that this chapter began because it directly ties into my moving into my current home/studio. When I moved into this apartment in April of 2011, I had not had a studio practice for roughly a year. The year prior I had been itinerant. Most of my belongings were put into storage since I had moved several times since the spring of 2010. I felt self-consciously rusty when I began setting up my studio. How does someone who feels like a ghost physically transform back and revitalize?
The work I had been making prior to my year of multiple moves was collage-based works on paper with layers of found materials and stenciled spray-painted forms. Materially, it was about alchemy. Visually, it was about harmonic density. When it was time for me to reconnect with my studio practice in the spring of 2011, I felt like I was starting all over again and that I needed to depart from a point that was elemental and familiar. My first inclination was to go back to an approach to art-making that I discovered for myself as a nineteen-year-old kid: I started building linear three-dimensional structures from fallen tree branches. Doing so felt like an honest and manageable re-entry with an approach I knew I could trust. In essence, dense two-dimensional choreography gave way to skeletal three-dimensional drawing.
About a year into this new phase of making work I had an epiphany about what I was doing and how it related to my core. I was sitting on the studio floor surrounded by materials that were organized by size, color and shape. Suddenly, it triggered memories of being a boy playing on the floor of my bedroom. My play with plastic soldiers and Lego and glass marbles was highly organized by the same formal characteristics. It was as though time and space collapsed and I realized I was doing the exact same thing.
All of this made a lot more sense a year later when I read the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. Being diagnosed as a dyslexic at the age of eight and not knowing how or why I became dyslexic was a mystery I never bothered to solve. The book proposes the theory that being a dyslexic requires specific characteristics in a two-part equation. Firstly, the cognitive—being a visual thinker as opposed to a verbal one. Secondly, the behavioral—having a panic response to uncertainty. Add the two together while a developing child is learning how to read and it is very likely that states of “disorientation” will occur. It is understood that no two dyslexics have identical reactions or challenges to reading, but traits of disorientation are similar (i.e. scrambling and omitting words or letters, misspelling, mispronunciation, along with increased heart rate and body temperature).
I had always assumed that my challenges to reading engendered my aversion to it, and opened me up to nonverbal activities (like music and sports). For many years it was clear to me that being dyslexic had a lot to do with my becoming a visual artist, but I had not realized that the ongoing tug of war between chaotic uncertainty and the security of organization had been one of the main contents of my work.
notes on CELLPHONE NOTEBOOK:
Since 2005, I've been caring a cell-phone. Like most cell-phones, mine has a camera. I take it with me almost everywhere.
There was a time in the mid- to late-nineties when I began to experiment with taking close-range pictures of quotidian details of the world around me with a Polaroid camera.
Over the past six years I've been regularly using this low-resolution camera in the exact same way I used to use to with the Polaroid - as a recorder of finding the profound in the mundane; documenting momentary intimate and abstract scenes that I encounter on a daily basis. Much like the collage and sculptural material I collect on the streets, these images, too, are found. I consider them to be 'snaps of attention', a visual 'pop' that focuses my awareness on specific formal relationships.
see this tool as a modern day sketchbook. Not only has it allowed me
to continually inform and report back to my studio practice while I
am out in the world, but it has also become an independently powerful
means of investigation and articulation of the found form.
notes on repetition:
I see my studio practice as a balancing act between the physical manifestations of my core tendencies (repetition) and the spontaneous impulse for change (difference). Like the difference between climate and weather: climate being understood as the long-term trajectory of meteorological conditions, and weather as conditions of the immediate present, repetition and difference live inside and move around each other in my work.
Always striving for consistency, but rarely working serially, my typical approach has been to engage and resolve each piece individually. This generous and open-ended attitude has engendered a body of work that could be interpreted at face value as disparate and unrelated, but the central and foundational motivations that drive the work: the impulses to collect, organize, and build have remained in tact for years.
BROOKLYN - ICELAND - FLORIDA statement:
My interest in the abstraction of meaning through coded information came into focus roughly a year ago when I re-discovered the numbers station radio signals from the Cold War era. For decades, covert intelligence agents used short wave radios to transmit messages internationally. As a teenager during the tail end of this era, I can recall listening, spellbound, to these signals on my short wave radio. The seemingly random, but repetitive, lists of numbers and odd tone sequences riveted me. I had no idea what they meant, and I wondered if I was doing something illegal by listening to these secret celestial transmissions. It was the very lack of meaning that kept me interested and gave resonance to my experience.
The work in this exhibition was created within the last year. These pieces contain preexisting elements of my visual vocabulary, while at the same time incorporate highly localized and site-specific mediations on new environments.