Invisible Trends, Visible Art

posted in: Painting | 2

We are immersed in trends and therefore, fail to see them. We are swept in the current of trends from shoes to menus to house colors. Trends are a function of many influences, technology, science, demographic shifts, and economics and, these forces shape our imagination. For artists to direct their own imagination they must transcend trend currents. They must  be able to recognize them and their pervasive influence. Gathering observations of  the work of others helps gain that transcendence. It’s how to shed the myopia of working alone or within a closed community. Travel helps. Visiting  galleries helps but, not by selecting which galleries we would like to see but, by randomly selecting galleries, by looking at every gallery on a street, in a building or in a neighborhood. Warning; when we preselect  exhibitions we reinforce our own prejudiced preferences. I employed the random viewing approach when I was visiting NYC galleries last week.  Here are some trend observations.

My survey provides only my anecdotal experience and does not pretend to be a scientifically large enough sample to make clear trend conclusions. However, there were many apparent coincidences. Collaged photographs, whether in digitally unified form or physically compiled were numerous. I avoid the big established names  who were showing like Richard Serra, Cleve Gray, Yvonne Jacquette, or, Sean Scully.  I enjoy looking at their work but they were ineligible for  my survey’s purposes. Here are two examples ( example 1, David Kapp showing at Tibor De Nagy; example 2, Thomas Demand in Chelsea).  Both of these artists used physical construction in their collages. Both referenced photographic experience and reconstructed the experience with deceptive illusory effects.

example 1. David Kapp, collage with painted paper. jan14,13,contemporary, david kapp,painted collaged paper_edited-1

example 2. Thomas Demand, paper reconstructions of mundane subject matter found through cell phone snaps. At first glance the imagery does not appear to be a paper construction of  an image. Look closely. jan14,13,contemporary, thomas demand 2013, paper reconstruction from dell phone snap_edited-1

Another observation is the ever popular anthem: Sex Sells. Here the collage was all done in paint by Mark Denis (example 3, also showing in Chelsea) as he reprised the works of Courbet, Caravaggio, and Richter but, redirecting their intention by putting in contemporary third parties. I repurposed Mark Denis’s work by taking a shot of a gallery viewer observing the painting. We now have intensions to the 4th degree; what is he thinking;  what is photographed the viewer thinking, what is the brusher thinking and what am I,  the final viewer thinking.  Another example is Padraig Timoney showing at Andrew Kreps gallery in Chelsea ( example 5). Timoney  uses oil, acrylic and photographic developer on his layered, painted imagery.  We see one field of painted evidence superimposed upon another.  Ideas for such an effect can be generated through layering images  in Photoshop or superimposed cut-outs or acetate overlays. The imagery is collaged but, the product is painted.

example 3. Mark Denis, painting.jan14,13,contemporary, marc denis, painting_edited-1

example 3a. photo of viewer before painting.jan14,13,photo, david dunlop of mark denis and viewer

example 4. Padraig Timoney, painting.jan14,13,contemporary, Padraig Timoney, 2013, oil,acrylic, photograhic developer 83x125in

Another example of contemporary collage with paint and other materials but, independent of photography is a set of screens made by Maio Motoko in 2011. This example ( example 5) is on view in the Japan section of the Metropolitan Museum. Motoko first applies gold leaf then, borrowing the ancient serpentine design form (dragon form) he builds a shape from crushed paper, pigment and silk on paper.

example 5. Maio Motoko, in Metropolitan Museum. jan14,13,contemporary japan,Maio Motoko,2011, alt view_edited-1

Imagery can be collaged within the camera itself in a single shot. As I wandered between galleries I found images that were automatically compounded. For example (example 5) while waiting for a subway I noticed a collection of security video monitors with their eyes on the tracks. This image appeared to me as a pair of disjointed glasses reflecting different scenes of the same subject. One of our first reflexes is to see faces and the first component we see in faces are the eyes. Disney gives us a forest full of creatures’ eyes  just by placing multiples pairs of lights on field of black.  In example 6,  I found a more lascivious  expression of collage in posters layered and peeling off  a wall.  The form reminded me of the historical triptych.

example 5. Subway monitors as off-kilter eyeglasses jan14,13,nyc subways2_edited-1

example 6. Peeling lascivious triptych  (eroding advertisements for Diesel wear) . The eye slowly scans for information, discovering connections with each new instant of recognition. Just as with Padraig Timoney’s example, your eye is made to work here to locate and create unified imagery, to put  disparate pieces together. The image was so perfectly degraded I was suspicious that it was staged to attract my attention.jan14,13,contemporary, david dunlop chelsea photo_edited-2




2 Responses

  1. Rebecca Hoefer

    enjoyed the blog

  2. Fredric Neuwirth

    This is great! A sort of current art survey of random art. Please add to your viewing The Upstream Gallery in Dobbs Ferry current “Small Works Show”. Incredible variety of stuff. Is it art? It is a good question and perhaps needs an answer.

    I especially liked and will check it out next week when I go to the Met the screen by Maio Motoko. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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