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painting_detail

My recent exhibits have featured a series of works called shiftsites. In these paintings and monotypes, I continued to explore a set of problems which revolve around two primary issues: 1| the visual displacement of mass and weight and 2| the fracturing of the surface of the picture plane, exposing an inner surface which visually operates in contrast to the outer surface.
These investigations had their beginning almost thirty years ago in a series of experimental animated films which incorporated the movement of robotic sculptural forms in a cinematic format. The point of the visual events created by the moving forms dealt much more with the space between the forms than with the forms themselves. Many years later the ideas captured in these films were explored in three-dimensional projects where microkinetics was employed to cause small, imperceptible shifts in sculptural objects made of many parts. These parts would shift apart over time due to ground movement caused by the natural shaking of most environments, often a result of vehicles moving along roads.
Seismic activity is also a very common occurrence in Southern California, and many of the tremors experienced in Los Angeles go unnoticed unless they register above a 3 on the Richter scale. I perceive movement in the ground as a reflection of the passing of time. The earth is a form of geologic clock, and the time that passes from day to day, century to century, is registered in the moving landscape which is in a continual shifting state, whether we notice it or not. Naturally, the occasional earthquake that causes damage creates a stark reminder of how momentary and fragile our urban environments are, and aftershocks seem to re-awaken a primordial anxiety which takes months, sometimes years to fade.
Man-made objects are almost always at odds with terra firma. My long fascination with monoliths from the Neolithic period of Europe as well as the ruins of ancient cities is centered on an observation that the earth is always at work, patiently and systematically, to reclaim everything we make and everything we are. As buildings crumble and corpses decay, there is a poetic beauty in this reclamation process, one with which most human beings are at odds. Much of my work attempts to address different aspects of this process.
As I continue the shiftsite series, I try to maintain an emphasis on the balance and counter-balance between that which appears man-made and natural forms and objects. Attaining a level of ambiguity between something appearing natural vs. man-made is a tricky proposition because I try to avoid any form of accident in the creation of imagery, and all the imagery is ultimately man-made. My paintings are carefully composed, and the final composition is always a result of the careful analysis of the relationships between all visual elements. At the same time, I am trying to attain a final visual event which has the appearance of having created itself. The application of paint is often achieved using tools which avoid the appearance of hand-made marks, or as I sometimes refer to them, signatures, which can become obvious indicators of the artist’s hand.
Through the years I have visited many archaeological sites throughout the world. The Neolithic sites in England, including the prehistoric field boundaries at Bodmin Moor, have attracted me since childhood. I have always been fascinated by these Naguchi-like structures because they most effectively locate themselves between the natural and the man-made. Had I chosen a profession outside of the visual arts, I’m sure I would have been an archaeologist.
Another series I continue to develop is called Linea Fractura or Fractured Line. These paintings, although informed by issues related to seismic activity, also function on a formal level addressing two very different approaches to mark making. Below the surface of these works are more fluid visual events suggesting gestural turbulence and instability. Through a process of multiple layerings of geometric forms over the fluid under-painting, I am able to create a visual synthesis between two very different states of reality, referencing the idea of geologic stratification. We know that the surface of the planet, the crust or lithosphere, is a very thin layer which sits on the earth’s mantle, the asthenosphere. The material of the asthenoshere is plastic and even fluid in nature. The earth, in many respects, resembles a balloon, which has a very thin shell. Just below this cool shell is an inferno of materials. It is amazing, if not somewhat terrifying, to contemplate the true composition of our planet, which is much more like a water balloon than a solid rock. To fully appreciate works in the Linea Fractura series, they should be viewed from the side. This will enable you to see the linear character of the fractures. If you move away from the paintings, the two independent surfaces fuse.
As is often the case in my exhibitions, some of the works undoubtedly reference the human figure which I feel is present in all vertical structures, be they monoliths, buildings or actual depictions of the human body. The human form is universally embraced by all cultures as a cornerstone in the human psyche. If people are not in evidence, we turn non-human objects into human surrogates. Human beings have always done this and always will. It is in their nature to equate self-reflection with preservation and survival. When surrogate structures are destroyed, be they immense Buddhas or modern skyscrapers, we feel the loss and there is an urgency to resurrect these things, if for no other reason than to work against natural decay or the nihilism locked away in the darker recesses of the human mind.
Much of my current work could be seen as landscape in nature. I refer to these works as “Shift Sites” because it is the perception of the slow movement of large formations that fascinates me more so that the depiction of some specific geographic location. My approach to composing and my use of form might also be classified as cubist in nature. Because so many of the forms found in my work come from interpretations of architecture, there is a definite presence of geometric form in my work. I do not, however, identify strongly with the cubist movements of the early 20th century.

 

 

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