Tag Archives: making art

Major Decisions: The Narrow Way

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Besides being the semester mid-point, my 3rd-semester mid-term coincided with major changes in the final direction of my thesis project, The Cascade – Moments in the Televisual Desert. I plotted several distinct pieces that need to be completed before January and determined the final format and physical considerations of the last part of the triad: the interactive.

So, in addition to continued conceptual investigation, I grappled with medium, technique and materials in a direct way–clearing the “limitless possibilities” that were effectively making part of the project freeze, Hamlet-style, from too many options.

The three-part, interdisciplinary installation will include painting and video, which were already decided, but the possible format of the video, plus the final direction of the third element–the interactive R/W component, were still up in the air.

The interactive component had so many potentialities it became limiting instead of liberating.  I had built and cross-referenced output format lists, based on suggestions and investigations, which implied the third component could take nearly any form–from interactive fiction to downloadable apps–digital images on paper to responsive environments. I had also started down all of those avenues, experimenting without critically tying each output back to my concept.

I did some conceptual housekeeping, sweeping away techniques that did not directly communicate my concept and its ties to televisual experience (output formats like websites, phone apps and Processing referenced digitality flavored by the Internet, speaking less about the nature of television and more about the broader computerized spectrum of 21st century communication). Instead I zeroed in on a form of stereoscopy for the third component, which ties in to memory theory and physical interactivity, while referencing televisual memory on several levels. I’ll do a big reveal later in the semester, but it feels good to weed the garden of endless mediums! The interactive has become stereoscopic. If the stereoscopy does not hold up to more rigorous critique, there are several other formats that can be revisited.

Above: Completed Encounter video.

The video display has been narrowed down from a wild list of on-site projections, digital photo frames, and room-filling environmental shifts to a single monitor or system of multiple monitors which play the videos with out-loud audio on the main display. During the last residency I found viewers were split 50/50 on reception of the videos on a large scale or more intimate size. The larger scale referenced the black box of cinema and filmic language. The smaller scale referenced television. While it would be interesting to construct an enter-able televisual space, with multiple projections in a darkened room, I found that referencing television via the televisual screen makes the most sense, especially the more I’ve dug in to the differences between television theory and cinematic theory. The black box of cinema expects the viewer to sit down and focus on the language of film, much like the novel, which restrains, constrains and uses its own cultivated language–characters and locations are fully rendered in a lengthier window of time than your average television episode, yet it has a much shorter expanse in which to develop virtual relationships than a 24-episode tv season. It’s more complex than this, but in a nutshell, cinema is over-arching, encompassing. Television is episodic, fleeting, but builds a dynamic mosaic for interpretation. We engage with tv on different days, in different moods–but film is meant to be consumed in one shot, one specific length.

Television is a “white box” medium which co-exists in our personal, social and lived-in spaces. We don’t turn the lights down (unless we’re watching a filmic experience on television) to engage with it. Instead, TV occupies a light, lively room. We may pass in front of the box, doing chores, talking, temporarily engaging the screen, getting wrapped up in bursts of sound, snippets of dialogue… it is a medium of oral tradition, of mosaic image-memory, of fragmentary, flowing storytelling. It occupies more hours with us in our physical geographies, in our relationship to friends and family in location-situated space.

Showing the videos on a television-referent monitor as wormholes into time, space, memory, landscape, histopry and television makes sense. Even those who prefer to view television via Netflix or Hulu on computers or mobile devices engage with the media intimately, yet with an odd sense of passive control, small and close. In the white box of the gallery space, it makes sense. With lights on, the rest of the installation lit and occupying pass-through space… it makes sense!

My decision was influenced by discussions with fellow students, faculty, advisors, my mentors–and by viewing a variety of video art projections and installations in person, gauging my response to the physical display, as well as the response of other visitors.

I’d still like to experiment with an all-tv room, or with projections on scrims, but in my gut I know tv will show tv.

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I’ve also narrowed the way further. The sheer amount of material that was filmed in Los Angeles County between 1965 and1989 is staggering. I had initially limited the pool of resources to television, rather than the thousands of hours of cinematic references to the same geographic considerations, because I knew it would be overwhelming.  I also knew the inclusion of film would change the dynamic (and personality) of the language I would be investigating and the forms the project could take. Thus, I had to leave Soledad Canyon gems like Duel (1971) off the table.

These early decisions remain in place. However, the pool of available television is itself a massive, decade-spanning archive. I fielded hours of television time, watching, hunting, scouring, sampling, barely melting that formidable iceberg tip. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my reasons for choosing certain programs are systematic and (hopefully) logical. Even with the guidelines I set for myself, the archive was still too big and expanding too quickly (nearly everyone at the last two residencies has suggested additional programming, additional genres), so I drew the line. I’m not adding any more programs, as tempting as it is (and even as I constantly remember more episodes and programs filmed in these locations!).

I’m finding the ground much more fertile when my ever-expansive view returns home, focused and narrowed on the final stretch.

My crystallized, official schema:

Program Selection

1.) They had to be filmed in Los Angeles County during the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s (the heyday of LA County as the seat of American television filming).

2.) They had to be programs I had originally watched in their first (or partial first) run, or in syndication during those same decades (in-context viewing).

3.) They had to offer some kind of iconographic contribution to the project; the “paramedics” or the “detectives.”

4.) They had to be dramas (I excised sitcoms, cowboy serials and other programs early on, as the language is quite different–though I can see returning to investigate these genres in the future).

5.) They had to be programs I had actually enjoyed watching, or felt some obsessive compulsion to engage with. This is why, for example, Airwolf isn’t on the list. I frankly didn’t like it. This is important for the earnest angle, which leaves sarcastic critique at the door.

6.) I had to be a distilled, representative array, including highly recognizable works paired with obscure memory-traces (a la Douglas Gordon, Renee Green).

For the second half of the semester, I’m planning to complete the rest of the video set, which magnifies various tropes and locations, including Ambush, Airplane (Rental), Car Chase, Auto Accident, Secret Air Base, Sniper, Desert Fire, and Military Action – (titles not final). I’ll be working my way through these with my palette of clips and ideas, though some may carry over to next semester. Plus, I’m working on new digital stills (see the two this post) and I intend to finish the next 2-3 paintings in the series.

And, here’s Pink Floyd’s – The Narrow Way. For the hell of it. http://youtu.be/TJaj_2xsHzc

Investigations in Video

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks doing intense research and sourcing materials, output formats and software for the studio work. I’ve also done a lot of screen captures and video clipping, prepping a new arsenal of raw material for the semester.

Some of what I’ve been working with are moving edits and clips, recontextualized via splicing, editing, formatting and blending. This is a rough idea of the tip of the iceberg:

I can’t wait to see where (and how) it transforms!

I’m also experimenting with time, color and surface quality in the clips:

Expect a TON of new iterations and excavations as I really dig in to the mutli-part components to this project. I’m treating the rough, raw video as painterly expressions…

Final Mentor Meeting

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Leslie and I had our final in-person mentor meeting on Friday, May 23–and we really wrapped up a productive semester. Leslie’s help was pivotal. She asked incredibly important, relevant, often philosophical questions, allowing me to arrive naturally at fruitful answers, without ever feeling disarmed or pressured.  I was able to be myself, with expert guidance, and I’m hugely appreciative of her incredible wisdom and open-minded approach.

Since we had spent so many hours analyzing the digital stills this semester, we talked less about them as individual units this time and more as an overall, blended language.

We referred back to the set of stills as we talked about other developments, however.
Especially this one:

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The big painting is about 3/4 of the way complete and Leslie was excited about it.  My primary question was whether this was an avenue worth investigating, to which Leslie answered a resounding YES!

The painting started as a mutation of a side exercise Leslie had suggested during our very first meeting. Like the digital Cascade, it took on a life of its own and rapidly moved from exercise to breakthrough.

We talked about ways in which the painting spoke to digitality, without simply performing as a static copy of a digital printout. We also discussed line, color palette, the ambiguous, elastic-space environment and other formal and conceptual considerations. Leslie did an intense micro/macro reading of the painting surface, analyzing everything from moment-to-moment passages and color shifts to the language of mark-making and individual transitions–then we dug into its method of communicating the ambiguity of physical and social space so important to both the transitional television stills and my bigger body of work.

Overall, she was intrigued by its ability to stand up to reading both near and far, and by its fresh interpretation of the digital as counterpoint.

We could see a series of these shown in relation to video projection and digital stills–various expressions of the Cascade with different dialects, thus offering different avenues of analysis without being repetitious.

We also dug deeply into what seems the most important aspect of the painting: how it radically changed the way I work in paint.

I’m normally a fast painter, owing to my quick, responsive engagement with the content. I strategize the whole and attack. I know what needs to be done and I work to complete it as a continuous drive.

For example, we spoke about this older still life I had in the studio:

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For rendering the study above, I conceptualized the whole and dug in. It was a matter of fleshing out a complete idea where most of the planning and discovery takes place off-canvas.

What’s different with this new painting is my approach to resolving the image. Of course the style and purpose of these two works are different, but that’s not the point I’m making. In fact, Leslie pointed out that my treatment of the seemingly flat areas in the fruit study (especially the lower right, just beneath the right pomegranate) resemble the moment-to-moment shifts in the large painting (and the digital work). So, *I* am still very much doing what I have always done–just cracking it open and freshening it up.

For this new painting, I am combining three different Cascade stills, themselves already multi-layer combinations of other stills, drawings and prints.

Rather than combine them in Photoshop, print it out and copy in paint–I am mixing them in real time on paper. Deejaying, in a way. Sampling bits from each and whirling them together. I have an overall intention, but as I work into the painting surface, I am responding to each individual moment, to each brush stroke, to each passage in a new way.

I am no longer diving in to simply fulfill an expressive objective.

Instead, this painting is a process. It’s a process of reactive discovery–an archaeological dig of moments that reveal themselves, shift, change, and reveal new encounters. It is behaving like a digital or printmaking process, allowing me to adapt and respond, analyze and uncover. 

It’s taking me much longer than painted works in the past, because it’s telling its own story as the story unravels.

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Leslie was thrilled. I seem to have made an important breakthrough which allowed me to apply my digital and printmaking way of thinking to the immediacy of paint.

It takes me out of my plan-ahead strategist brain and puts me in a new, adapt-as-you-go-within-a-bigger-plan method, a la The Art of War. So I paradoxically have a plan blueprint, but my movements change from hour to hour.

Taking away the rigidity of the finite plan in execution allowed the painting to open up, to speak to digitality, to speak to the concept–and Leslie and I both felt it’s an important avenue of investigation.

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We also talked about some of the first output Horizons (above). They came out way too dark, but Leslie encouraged me to let go of my dissatisfaction with the printing process and to look at them for what they are, for their scale, their internal nature and their “happy accident” color palette.

We analyzed them for a while, with Leslie suggesting what might happen if they were selectively excavated. Would a smaller snippet still speak to the whole? This is kind of like the micro zooms idea.

The long, desert-evoking horizontality is important in these and I’ll be printing a couple more to take with me to gauge interest. Leslie also suggested she liked multiple horizons stacked, just as Conor had mentioned last week.

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We covered a lot of ground, went back over many of our earlier discussion points from other meetings and Leslie rounded it all out by taking a personal interest in my preparation level for the residency. We tackled any concerns had for the upcoming trip and we discussed the nuts and bolts of getting the most out of even the most problematic critiques.

She genuinely cares about how confident I feel and how capable, equipped and ready I feel for the Fall semester and offered to meet again if I need it during the final week of May. I will be sending her updates on the videos I’m reworking, as well as the painting, but I think she prepared me well. Thanks, Leslie!

 

Experiment 30 (Simultaneity)

experiment30Layers of digital manipulation, with monotype techniques, scanned, output on lustre paper, then surface manipulated with inks and paints.

Simultaneity (Collapse of A-Series Time).

 

Next Evolutions for In Progress Work

I shared a few early photos of some of these pieces earlier in the blog. Many were just a momentary flash on the picture plane, now additionally and heavily developed in these progressive snaps.

The set immediately below makes use of printmaking, paint, drawing, image transfer and collage.

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Layers of acrylic and watercolor monotype. Almost done:

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The next phase on the collagraph:

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This is the second collagraph I pulled from that problematic plate and I’ve been building on top of the peachy bottom layer for some time.

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The three photos below are waxed serigraphs with some ink painting. Still playing with their transparency and light play.

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Multiple layers of monotype, serigraphy, ink, drawing:piece2

 

This one’s almost there:

 

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Drypoint with monotype, woodcut, trace monotype, serigraphy.

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The Joy of Printmaking – Works in Progress

Here are a few shots of some of the work I’ve been developing at my mentor’s studio the last few weeks. Working across various print mediums, I’m generating layers of information–some transparent, allowing viewer excavation. Other areas are opaque, or nearly opaque, preventing or diverting access, weighing the picture plane as heavy states of matter.

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The ethereal rock shapes in these works are done using combinations of serigraphy, shaped monotype plates with thin, transparent ink, and some relief printing, including woodcut.

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A few mixed media works that have changed dramatically since I took this photo. I’ll need to share the newer versions.

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Woodcut layer generated using a “dodge and burn” style stencil technique, with thin, ghostly void information developed as trace monotype. The print in the foreground, flat, is a collagraph with some relief and intaglio on top. The flat piece has a long way to go.

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My work surface, using an uncarved wood block to generate luscious textures.

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Experimenting with a flecked paper. I don’t normally use paper with embeds, but find it challenging to see if the embedded bits can work effectively with composed layers. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. These are early stage mixed print pieces, composed mostly of serigraphy, but with woodcut, linocut and image transfer elements. inprogress11 inprogress12 inprogress13 inprogress14

Remember those pale pink collagraphs I printed some time ago? The ones I was not initially pleased with? They became functional underlayers for several pieces that are developing nicely. The image below features one of the weakest of the collagraphs, mutated effectively through layering. Glad I kept them!

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Below is a trace monotype that became the seedling of a much more developed print. tracemono

A few of my rock and monotype plate shapes. And dramatic Faustian ink.worktable1

Works in Progress

A few more pieces I’ve been working on. These are in-progress shots which show some of the background layer building I’ve been doing, as they’re developed.

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Working on larger drawings which allude to a series of smaller mutli-technique etchings I did late last year. Seeing what happens if I blow them up and articulate the detail in different ways. These are drawn rather than etched and printed.

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The above etching, Pompeii: Emergence, is the impetus behind the larger charcoal and ink drawings. I’ll try to fit as much rigorous detail into the large scale works as I managed to get in this single plate development (which used soap ground, Sharpie, hard ground, soft ground and lift ground).

 

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The very, very beginning of an underlayer which I plan to print on top of. Ink (wet and pen).

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Several pieces getting ink layers added. I’ve been doing a lot of painting and drawing this semester and using the printing more to tie the varied elements together.

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Another, slightly less blurry, cap of one of the drawing underlayers.

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A larger piece which at first, as shown here, included a brush painting underlayer and then later received collaged and printed elements on top.

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A continuation of a large brush painting I started a month ago. This will get printing on top.

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A stack of experiments. Most of these are forays into different palette combinations, mark processes and compositional adventures. Many will continue to be developed, others will be printed over or cut into collage elements if they do not resolve.

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A stack of work in progress.

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Rock shapes awaiting collage.

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Serigrapy underlayers, with some collage, ready to get more!

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Bits from the finished experiment piece, Bytes. 

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Even more rocks, created using a combination of monotype, serigraphy, digital and painted elements. Ready for the big collage.