Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ghost in the machine Pt. 1 an Introduction

For a along time I have wrestled very deeply with my aversion to contemporary art.

The first question that always came to bear whenever I talked about my wrestling with the eternal "why" of painting and the contemporary was, oddly enough; "why". Why care? Couldn't you just ignore it if you don't want to be part of it?

The short answer is no. The long answer is incredibly long, but the medium length answer is that contemporary art has always been the grain of sand in the oyster of my understanding.

God. That's horrible to look at isn't it? 

That sounds kinda icky, so let me put it another way.

I have always understood things in terms of systems and categories. Whenever I undertake a new project, especially if the subject is complex, I first spend a lot of energy attempting to learn the system by which it operates. The mechanical side of painting was very much like that, and my training made it doubly so. The idea that all the values in a given subject can be organized into three (called 3 general tones) and further broken down into another three for each given area of tone (a light middle, a medium middle, and dark middle) instantly appealed to my understanding of how to approach subjects of nearly infinite complexity.

Likewise the ability to break colors down into Munsell notation, or the ability to think of color as existing in a three-dimensional "color space", was extraordinarily helpful in pushing my ability to render objects in a way that replicated reality. This was fundamental in pushing my painting style toward that of tromp l'oeil which now comprises 90% of my work.

My name is Frank. Sometimes I paint stuff.

A system of thought is a lot like a system of language. It allows us to describe and categorize things in a way that we can understand and utilize to get things done.

Now imagine you come across something that there is literally, no words for. It is not even like anything you have a word for. In contemporary philosophy, this is referred to as a "singularity". And by most accounts of such things exists throughout history (like the first time people saw men riding horses in combat, or when gunpowder was first used on the battlefield) it is often met with fear, terror and panic.

Not to say that I run screaming from a building any time I see a painting by Jenny Saville, but the effect is not dissimilar to the aforementioned grain of sand. It's profoundly irritating.

Actually, I might run screaming 
from this one

Also, this is not to say that the individual works of art themselves are irritating (although that happens) but that the very idea of the "contemporary" itself does not fit within the system of art as I have come to understand it. It is the equivalent of listing the primary colors as "red, yellow, blue, and scream" or listing a values in a painting as "light, middle, dark, and scarf."

It would also be one thing if this singular anomaly were isolated. But it's not. Being an artist who is profoundly interested in the systems of art, you simply cannot interact with anything art related with out bumping into it on a regular basis (perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be it smacking you in the face with a wet fish on a regular basis). Inevitably if you are hit in face with enough wet fish when walking through a desert, you eventually begin to wonder, "Where the are all the fish coming from?" And also, "Why the fuck are there even fish flying through the air all the way out in the desert anyway?

I have wrestled with this problem over and over. And I think I have an answer but it is a complicated one. It is a synthesis of history, theory, language and even a little money and class thrown in to boot. The posts in this series entitled "The Ghost in the Machine" will eventually become the basis for a book I am in the process of writing entitled "The Architecture of the New and the Phenomenon of the Avante-Garde." I'll attempt to make it as theory light and humor heavy as possible.

I'll also have pictures of bunnies from time to time:


Watch this space.

Genius out.

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