History: Citywide Studios Part 8

I brought two cats to Citywide Studios with me. Oblong was a large gray and black short hair tabby, with an orange tint.  Dare was fluffier, orange and white. Both had always been indoor cats all the time I had them, but with the enclosed space of the studio that seemed no longer to be an option. I didn’t want them to live shut off from natural light and any kind of stimulation for all my long hours at work.

So I determined  I would live in the studio with my barred security door locked, but my heavy exterior door left propped open. And so it was, for two years, except for a few extreme weather condition days-my front door stayed open to the outside, a crack wide enough for the cats to enter and exit. They loved their new found freedom.

History: Citywide Studios Part 7

An ongoing description of my two years living in an art studio warehouse 2001-2003

The windows of the space were limited. Along the side that faced the street, the storefront windows had been replaced by opaque white glass covered by the heavy metal mesh, which allowed a dull glow but no real illumination. This was fine by me as it was the part of the room I used as living space, so it gave privacy. Unfortunately it was a western exposure, and really baked in the desert afternoon sun.

The only other window was in my half bath in the corner of the room , on the wall that faced the parking lot. It was a small window, about face high, that cranked open-a little bit. It also had bars. Since it was contained in the bathroom it let no light into the main room at all, except a little ambient glow if I left the bathroom door open.

Having this large room with no natural visibility left me with something of a dilemma-as it was not only me that had moved into Citywide Studios.

To Be Continued in Part 8: The Cats

Studio: A Production Goal

Recently I decided to challenge myself with a new body of work, inspired by the writings of Williams S Burroughs. The paintings will be acrylics on canvas, small format. The idea is to evoke the bizarre image cascade of his best books.

So far I have created 4 12″ x 12″ canvases in 8 days.

My goal is to have 30 paintings in this series complete by April.

I sense the momentum building.



Commentary: Political Art

There was a point when I was heavily involved on Facebook, skirmishing with the conformist drones of the art world. When someone posted a call for liberal agenda art, this was my response:

Too much of contemporary art tries to use sociology as a short cut to significance. Propaganda is feeble art no matter what cause it supports. Art is about a deeper experience than a debate about public policies. What makes Guernica powerful is not a specific protest but the universal depiction of the human condition. So what I am going to do is go as deep into my art as possible and be true to my vision. Separate from my art is the discussion of how our cultural elites have created a corrupted and doomed system that I am determined to see dismantled.

Propaganda visual art is preaching to the choir. It lets everybody who already agrees with it feel righteous for a moment without really taking any substantive action. It does not work as outreach-a painting will not persuade anyone to change their opinion on a complex issue. Art is ineffective as a tool of debate, because that is not the level it communicates on. Emphasizing politics has been part of the general decline of the art establishment over the last few decades, where context and theory have taken the place of powerful work that succeeds on its own terms. If someone feels passionate on a cause and pours it into their work, then that may be honest, but if politics is all it’s about, it’s limiting and will be ultimately less successful as art. The easier it is to explain what a piece is about the weaker it is as art, and political art is all about delivering simple messages. There is a lot of work to be done out there, but if people really want to make institutional changes art is not the way to make it happen. It takes other kind of work.

History: Citywide Studios Part 6

An ongoing description of my two years living in an art studio warehouse 2001-2003

But the events with public attendance were rare. Usually Citywide Studios was only populated by the artists who lived or worked there. The rough neighborhood and the resulting security measures prevented causal visits. It was a place that required effort to get into.

The building occupied the corner of Pierce and 15th Avenue. The parking lot was entered from the Pierce street side. Getting into the lot meant pulling up to a massive barred gate, kept locked at all times. Opening the gate was a strictly manual process-it meant getting out of your vehicle, using keys to open the lock, pushing the gate along its track of rollers, getting back into the car and pulling into the lot, and then hurrying back to roll the gate closed, and locking it.

The parking spaces were literally at our doorsteps. I’d get out of my van 3 steps from my door.


Quotes: The Essence of Academicism

“It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing. We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.”

-Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb

It’s ironic that Rothko, the painter of rectangles, railed against a lack of subject matter in art early in his career. At the time, in the early 1940s, he was exploring fragmented mythological themes, blunt figures like broken chunks of classical statuary. The zones of color he later became famous for were already present-but only as backdrops.

Rothko ended up claiming that the removal of imagery liberated his art. The validity of that idea is challenged by Rothko’s ultimate fate: suicide. He slit his wrists in his art studio.

To lose the image was the great mistake of Modernism. The Remodernist artist commits to imagery. It’s a gesture of faith-the acceptance of the actual.


Commentary: Cultural Geography vs The Hegemony

These days, why does so much art look the same, no matter where it was created?

The adaption of Postmodernism as an international style has largely erased local cultural influences in institutional art making. When art largely consists of assembling appropriated images from globally available electronic mediums, then it’s hard to identify origins.

Non-objective and abstract art is similarly generic. Smeared paint looks pretty much the same no matter where it comes from.

Rejection of the anonymous, slick styles favored by establishment artists is a characteristic of Remodernism. The art is personal, reflecting the unique quirks and experiences of the artist.

A truly personal art will inevitably communicate the intimacies involved in where an artist lives, works, the environment they experience, the terrain they navigate. Remodernism is a home grown and diverse expression, glowing with  local color.