Emma

You know that I fervently deny any purpose for Art beyond the expression of the individual self, and so, I’m heartened to see the new video works by my niece, which are utterly hermetic and personal. A painter, she also works in video; dreamy & iconographic. Like much of this genre, it presents a quasi-narrative and non-sequential format of images and sound. In a word: Montage. Video is not the experimental medium, this form of storytelling is. Releasing from the formulas of drama, and amplified by the ubiquity of video content present everywhere to the young person’s perceptions, the ideas about flow of images and meanings in a constructed artistic expression are altering. There are extremes to this; On one hand I am too familiar with very fat books filled with blurry photographs, whose meanings are particular to the photographer through memory or the momentary, irrelevant to the viewer, with an equal pile of words to mediate that difference; On the other, epic installations, or lengthy and episodic “movies”, that display fantastic production values without need for structure, or reference outside of the elaborate internal logic of the work-of-art.

Her videos, Prisoners of Venus, White Sands, &c. are at: http://www.emmapryde.com/

In Museum

How My Drawing Ended Up in a Museum

Recently…

Dear Mr. De Genaro,
We are in the process of recording recent gifts and your drawing pictured below is among them. It came from the Estate of Judy Josephson Schreiber who lived in Mobile and Valdosta, Georgia.  We maintain artist records and I would very much like to know your date and place of birth.  Was there a title associated with this work? When did you create it? I noticed several similar ones on your website.  It would be very useful to know the background to this very distinctive approach. Congratulations on your ARTPRIZE. I was the curator at the Grand Rapids Art Museum many years ago. Please list us as having a work by you in the collection and keep us updated with your art activities.
Cordially,
Paul W, Richelson, Chief Curator
Mobile Museum of Art
4850 Museum Drive,  Mobile, AL 36608

11034 People

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Detail

This drawing, titled 11,340 People, was created in 1983 and was one of three which are related. The others are 3040 people and 34,846 People. They are part of a phase of working on intense detailed pictures of sketch figures over a period of a year.

At the time it was made, I was working to establish my uniqueness as an artist, and, wanted to demonstrate, even just physically, something superlative. My work is the Figure, and Identity, and constructivist interest in materials. I am primarily a sculptor, but do some graphic works. I’d say that this drawing is built as an object is constructed, from elements repeated to form a structure. As the drawing progressed, I saw the optical effects of the pattern created in repetition, and this lead me to create more works like this.

Aaron and Judith Josephson bought this drawing from a show at The Contemporary Artist Workshop in Chicago while I was in graduate study at SAIC in 1983. The price was $275 after the commission and I lived on that money.

Mujer de las Flores

 

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I resumed work on something from a while ago, renewed with energy from my vacation to Spain and Portugal. I knew now what I wanted to do with that iconic "Venus" construction, oh so minimal and cool. Now, I would adorn it to excess by hand-working the surface with bright colors and free shapes derived from nature. Flowers. You must know that those three things, excess, color, and natural forms, shaped my experiences in Spain and opened a way for me to relax my creative process. As a sculptor, inevitably a deal of "design" comes into play when building things; they must have integrity as real objects. But I also want the pleasure of creating with illusion and ornamentation, like when I draw in a sketchbook, creating a picture which may not need semblance to anything real in my vision. Shaping, modifying, without clearly knowing the outcome, without clearly knowing what it is desired to be. Creating with small marks and scribbles the image of something else, as a mirage or a feeling, transient in the mind and to the eye. This is the effort to do this in sculpture.

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The construction is sketchy itself. The method is used for parade floats, mardi gras decorations, and the Fallas de Valencia. They’re not meant to be permanent, and they are large and need to be lightweight, cheap, and quick.  Build a core armature to the shape of your sculpture of whatever light and impermanent materials you have on-hand; foam, bubble wrap, wire mesh, cardboard, wood, paper.

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Begin to cover it with masking tape, layer upon layer, until the shape you want begins to have firmness and integrity. Something not right? Add more paper, packing peanuts, fiberglass insulation, and tape, tape, tape. Keep taping. Then add more tape. Finally, if it still doesn’t quite seem right, add more tape. And then, put a nice smooth finish layer of tape on top. This really works. Have faith. I used at least ten rolls of 60 yard masking tape. To get to this. She’s about 30"x30"x30" which is a large as will fit through a doorway. 

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Next, prepare quantities of paper mache clay according to the popular way it is done now on the "internets". See: ultimatepapermache.com. There’s no point over thinking this; it has been figured out by very many creative "crafters" and you won’t find a better way, or at least any more well-tested way to do it. It is a strange mix of toilet paper pulp, drywall compound, Elmers glue, flour and linseed oil, and none of these things necessarily dry or cure in the same way, so I don’t know why it should work, but it does. Smear it on over your taped shape, just exactly like frosting a cake. Go in several thin layers, and dry it thoroughly between layers, by using large fans; this makes a big difference in the curing time. I used altogether 16(?) rolls of toilet paper, a gallon of drywall compound, and ¾ gallon of Elmers glue, or many small batches (16+). Take your time, play music, enjoy yourself, explore the details of troweling-on the mush; Spending time working in the studio is why you want to be an artist.

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Finally, I guess I’m done. There’s no more soft spots. The material dries hard with a nice texture that looks like stone or cement. Congratulate yourself for not using some awful shit like Bondo or fiberglass like some idiots would do.

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I’m ready for the adornment to begin. I had thought of all the ways I could machine cut paper flowers in great quantities until I realized what an opportunity for improvisation and play I’d be missing out on if I didn’t simply cut them out by hand with a pair of scissors, as well as free handing the drawing of the flower shapes in many varieties.

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The choice of colors, was for me, as usual, a challenge. I asked my trusted color advisor about this and she, as usual, immediately suggested the right combo of colors which would work well for this idea. She is flawless, really.

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..Until it finally feels right

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Adornment

I went to Portugal and Spain seeking and expecting to see a lot of decorative art applied to things from chapels to architecture to sculpture and streetscapes; instead what I discovered was something more intense than what I usually thought about decoration; what I’ll call Adornment. I may have thought of decoration as something applied to the surface, over something else, and and hiding, or not fully part of, another thing; an afterthought. Adornment means for me the accumulation of detailed elements into a synergizing aura becoming the object itself; there’s no boundary between the adornment and the object; each single part has adornment included in it.

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I’m sure I’d like to bring adornment into my work, over-ripe, sensual, vibrant, and rich; Not words I normally use about my sculpture.

More Moore

Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time; in Toronto, I went to the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I was in Toronto for the Tango Marathon, but Saturday afternoon I took off on my own. I rode the electric street trolley through town, which otherwise looks like Chicago.

At the AGO there is a large hall, and there are there displayed, some 20+ original full-size plaster models of many of the best known large public works by Moore.

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I’d been up ‘till 4 the night before, and I hadn’t had much breakfast, and when I entered that hall I felt humbled and bit sick to my stomach, and I thought of Prince’s Little Red Corvette:

I guess I should of closed my eyes
When you drove me to the place
Where your horses run free
‘Cause I felt a little ill
When I saw all the pictures
Of the jockeys that were there before me

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These are all very large sculptures – 8 to15ft – far above life-size. There is a lot of surface area at this size. They’re different from the bronzes in this way: I know the bronzes have a rich surface texture of marks and scrapes, cuts and gouges, which are essentially Moore, but the metal is so dark, the patina so dark, that it can be difficult to really see the forms being evoked out of that surface of markings. On the plaster versions, these marks are very much clearer, and I can easily see the drawing-like gestures, and the painterly slinging and shaping of plaster. I love plaster as a medium. It applies like paint or clay, and carves like clay or stone. These works were all done in the 50’s and early 60’s, and you can see Moore working in full-blown abstract expressionist mode across the full surface of these large forms. The entire surface of a sculpture is a drawing surface.

The structure of his process makes this fully abstract and gestural surface possible. I think most of his designs start as small, complete models, of the size to be held in the hands. He worked these in the hand, at the size which can be easily turned and examined, and discovered, until certain. Then a greatly enlarged armature is built to the final size of the piece, by a crew I presume, who also skims it with first surface of plaster. Now Moore has a complete full-size form he can be confident in. No major adjustments  need to be made to the form. Now he can go over the whole surface with wet plaster as if a drawing surface freely and without restraint.

I love Moore. I don’t want to be Moore, but I want a structural approach to building sculpture which also allows for the totally free expression of the spirit through material forms.

In my own work, I have not dealt much with the surface. This is because ordinarily I let the material itself reveal itself as the surface. It is an integrity thing. The material itself is topical to the work of sculpture. However, I’m  beginning to see some ideas which I would work out in clay or plaster – universally plastic material – which has no definite quality of surface except what it made intentionally upon it. It will become necessary to be responsible for the surface of the clay or plaster object; I must discover the surface, and now it seems that the path to that is in drawing. I been doing drawing which I’ve thought of as very thin sculptural shapes. It may be next to think of sculpture as extremely thickened drawing surface.

Machine-made art

Much of the production of visual art is done by machine now. Computerized digital cameras are highly automated, as are image processing systems for still and motion pictures. The digital network infrastructure reaches even to the palm of our hand, distributing images and words. Audio information production is the same. And that powerful combination, added to the printed word, is a mighty voice.

This system of machines supporting visual art does well what machines can do well; lower the cost of mass production and replicate products in large volumes. This is Ford style automated production line. It has progressed wonderfully during the recent digital revolution. The products are similar in source material, design, and workmanship, in that they all share the same imagery: the real world, aesthetics: human global culture, and purpose: communicating ideas and stories.

There is good art being done in digital media and it depends much on machinery. Are its practitioners, if deprived of their tools, prepared to to continue their personal expression in another material way? There may be a filmmaker who uses the media in a fashion that is essentially handmade with a SLR and a laptop, doing the script, acting, lighting, and sound himself. But without them, would he sit by a campfire and create the performance with only his voice, and gestures and a flashlight?  Works of digital media are mostly narrative storytelling, and when not, when being abstract, the meta-narrative of the creation technology becomes the story.

The individual object of art is almost unaffected by this change. It will continue to be created, mostly by one person, by hand, with simple tools, or un-specialized machines, individually. There is little distribution because the market is small and the object is unique and physical, limited in movement. The personal expression of the artist is unique in it’s source: the inner life of the person, it’s creation: the specific manual skill and sensibility of the artist, and it’s meaning: sensuality or spirit, or, whatever.

Individual art is a declaration, not a parable. A statement made by a person. Not the tired moralizing storylines, yet again and again, of good vs evil, the underdog who perseveres, of revenge fulfilled, of personal redemption, the hero, and all that other rot of manufactured sentiment. Enough of all that.