Residency Summary, Spring ’14



Residency Summary, Spring 2014

Ren Adams
Group 2 – Spring, 2014 Residency Summary
Lynne Cooke – Adviser


I began the program with a body of work which was primarily concerned with exploring the nature of emergence—depicting the way being materializes from non-being, matter from the void of non-matter. It synthesized ideas found in Eastern philosophy, archaeology and physics, uniting elements with formal practice in a time-neutral space; ambiguous gravity and perspective frozen on paper.

Fall, 2013 served as a transition point, allowing me to address information as matter, to explore the interconnectivity of networks (social, spatial) and to integrate the virtual space where it all takes shape. There was more to my production than continued dialogue with paper, however. I produced what seemed two loosely connected bodies of work: a series of mixed-media prints and a digital project that began as a daily exercise.[1] The digital series, dubbed The Cascade, marked an important breakthrough, becoming an investigation into the transient nature of virtual, social geography and the deep, time-stripped space of digital data. It was dangerous territory—one involving photography, digital manipulation, appropriation and recombination, later integrating printmaking into the archive. By semester’s end, my obsessive interest offered entry into a new phase of work and I brought representations of both bodies of work to the residency to gauge critical response to The Cascade as a potential thesis direction.


Congruent responses to the prints included:

  • The mark-making and quality of the prints were polished, precious and well-executed, but viewers found The Cascade more compelling as a body of work. Marks were referred to as “powerful,” “engaging,” “scientific.”
  • Effective delivery of concept.
  • Color palette mature, compelling and reminiscent of California and New Mexico deserts.
  • Prints were seen as a process of excavation for both viewer and artist.
  • Avoid flat, white paper as background—“created” negative space and off-white paper better received.
  • Consider what other contexts these sets of marks can reside in (i.e., Cascade).
  • There is a sense of contingency: molecules and atoms reconfigure to take on different forms, with a pervading substructure. Ambiguous gravity throughout.
  • Consider suspending rice paper in front of support.
  • Abstraction opens the work so you can enter, but have I gotten too comfortable with it?

Congruent responses to The Cascade included:

  • Fresh, compelling work.
  • Color palette fascinating—reminiscent of my core palette and the digital, transmitted nature of video. How do the colors relate to the digital world? The Cascade seems saturated, with a CMYK feel that’s intriguing—making some stills appear “watercolor-y.” Interesting play between natural palette and TV palette.
  • There is a sense of time-relativity, ambiguous perspective, contingent and ambiguous time.
  • Consider idea that the rest of the world sees the Los Angeles area landscape as a branded, packaged form of “America.” The work seems to be engaging this weird, 1960s-1980s cultural and commercial pool. Think of the ways Los Angeles was used as a stand-in for other parts of the world (Cuba, Russia, etc.) and how staging affects the nature of understanding geographic space-place.
  • No sense of nostalgia, sentimentality or ironic/sarcastic use of appropriated images (such a relief!—these were not intended to be part of the work).
  • Sense of memory, recollection. Compelling layers make it a challenge to separate memory, a sense of obscuring/revealing occurs.
  • Horizontal display format recalls storyboarding or linear narrative, without actually providing narrative. It encourages the eye to move, provides flow and movement. Strong sense of contingency and circular time.
  • Information as units of matter ß—àAtoms forming particular matter.
  • Shifting horizon provides ambiguity in physical space.
  • The work deals with the space between objective and subjective ideas of landscape, operating in a middle-ground that provides tension.
  • Varied layers and surfaces refer to different visual languages—complicating work in a good way.
  • References the strange reality we’re in, where TV informs our memory of real places and social interactions.
  • Individual stills are less “precious” than the prints, making this project suitable for radical experimentation.
  • Like beginning of a movie—suggestive, not narrative explicit. Work is also like growing up on a movie set, offers discussion of history and the language of illusion in cinema
  • Stills exist over time, not physical space, though they’re rooted in place. Lots of formal dynamism, interesting integration of mark and background. Representation emerges from the painterly moments.
  • References to electronic space

Specific Suggestions for The Cascade:

  • The form, or output, The Cascade could eventually take was of primary interest and often became a focal point for critiques. Suggested output formats/experiments included:
    • Print the digital works on large paper and work back on top of them (drawing, printmaking, painting, image transfer, collage).
    • Try blowing them up and outputting on large sheets.
    • Output the digital images on transparencies and suspend. Output Photoshop layers as individual transparencies and suspend with space between layers.
    • Projections, video, digital video, fade-in projection slideshow. Consider how video fades might provide sense of elusiveness.
    • Output on suspended paper.
    • Make the final output same as the laser printed documentation—smaller format, print smaller.
  • Display pieces using cathode TVs.
  • Consider ways to disrupt the print surface and how these disruptions communicate.
  • Use referentiality to your advantage. Does content need to be more overt?
  • Will more negative space/void improve some pieces?
  • Explore more stills taken out of motion, re-activate the sense of motion with line drawings (as in some of them). The line drawings imply re-animation and sequencing.
  • Consider how time relates to the work, to its layers and output.
  • Why can’t both digital and traditional co-exist? Play with that.
  • Consider what happens when electronic color goes up against natural color.
  • Try bringing some of the ritual engagement with print processes to the digital work, to see what happens: the presence of the “happy accident” in printmaking, manual meets digital. Some of the overlays recall this visual relationship.
  • Do a side investigation into the value of print and what happens in printmaking that differs from digital. Where does print and digital converge? What happens when I take form derived in the printmaking moment, abstract it into the digital world, then bring it back to print?
  • Some viewers liked stills that were less about the photo capture and more about the merging of hand and electronic considerations. Others preferred the opposite. In this context, intricately rendered moments might communicate more subtext when contrasted to raw digital material. Consider ways these activities interact.
  • Play with the establishing shots used in television to indicate location, think more cinematically (cutting, editing, motion).
  • One faculty member disliked the dominance of purple in some Cascade pieces, encouraging me to balance the natural and digital personalities of color.
  • Take marks developed in the prints and apply them to The Cascade.


Out of step critique:
I had a one-on-one faculty critique that was out of step with the rest of the critical responses.[2] She was not particularly interested in The Cascade, feeling it too unfinished to discuss, though she did suggest using chine collé to add Cascade images to thicker paper. She found the prints more “convincing,” though felt most were unresolved. She suggested that if I was going the digital direction that I not abandon printmaking entirely. Her response to the work echoed my mentor’s criticism (he was also disinterested in the Cascade), which was rooted in a more traditional sensibility, but out of step with all other critiques and discussions.


From The Cascade

Direction of Future Work:

I plan to focus on further investigation of the Cascade, both in terms of conceptual excavation and physical manipulation, considering new micro and macro layers of meaning and interaction. Experimentation across varied output techniques is pivotal as I develop material into a proto-thesis project.


I received a variety of artist recommendations this semester, including: David Salle, Douglas Gordon, Elizabeth Neel, Fiona Rae, James Rosenquist, Matthew Brandt, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg, Jered Sprecher, Xu Bing and Wade Guyton. I will also continue researching my artist list from Fall.

Suggested readings/videos:

I did not receive many reading recommendations, possibly because I already had a large number of texts on my Spring list (sourced in Fall). I am carrying the larger list forward and adding the following titles:

  • Moonwalking with Einstein – J. Foer
  • What the Bleep do we Know? (video)
  • Works by Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • Six Stories from the End of Representation: Images in Painting, Photography, Astronomy, Microscopy, Particle Physics, and Quantum Mechanics, 1980-2000. J. Elkins.
  • Appropriation (Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art), D. Evans.




[1] John Kramer suggested the daily exercise, encouraging me to work outside my familiar mediums to prevent “safe” stagnation. I rooted this daily ritual in an earlier curatorial project called The Trace, completed for Oliver Wasow’s “Digital Visual Culture in the Age of Social Media” elective seminar. For The Trace, I scoured the web for pre-existing, found snippets of Los Angeles County present in television screen caps. I curated a virtual exhibition of these un-altered landscapes.

[2] I had group critiques with Matt Keegan, Judith Barry, Deb Todd Wheeler and Pamela Drix. I had one-on-one critiques with Lynne Cooke, Deb Todd Wheeler, Deborah Davidson, Oliver Wasow, Mara Emma and Assya Makawi, with one spontaneous mini crit  with Tony Apesos.

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