RESOURCE: Where Abstract Art Is (From)
PowerHouse Presents… Resource: Where Abstract Art is (From)– a virtual panel moderated by Rossana Martinez, founder and curator of Minus Space and organized by the curators of Source–Susan Ross and Melissa Staiger. Source completed its run at The Halls at Bowling Green on May 28th. The show presented a mix of seven artists: Glen Cunningham, Mark Dagley, Laura Fayer, Molly Herman, Lori Kirkbride, Ben LaRocco and Rachael Wren. While each has a practice that fits neatly under the umbrella of “abstraction”, the breadth of their styles and influences ultimately explodes any attempt at easy categorization.
Rossana Martínez: Allan Kaprow said, “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible.” Guide us through a day when you find inspiration and time to create.
Molly Herman: Ideally, a painting day for me will begin by practicing yoga to get focused. Then, on my walk to the studio, I may notice the morning light on a bright bodega awning, or maybe a neon sign glancing off brick walls or lighting the water, etc. In Brooklyn, I’m always aware of the landscape’s broken grid — the incidental architecture shaped by time, human hands and nature.
In my studio, I think about building a painting. I conceive a painting while painting. I turn the canvas and often work on the floor. I stain, brush, stipple, scrub and trowel the paint. The paint stroke is a visual and rhythmic measurement (of the hand and body) with a logic that the painting is built upon, layer by layer. Color creates space and rhythm. some colors are deeply stained into the canvas, but appear to pop forward because of their saturation, other colors are painted in thick impasto and come forward as texture. In a way my painting process is like moving to remember or to conjure an impression of a glimpsed moment.
Laura Fayer: I have a live/work space so the line between my art and my life is truly fluid and indistinct. I live with my art. I might be passing through the studio into another room when I think of a mark that should be made, or glimpse a patterned piece of paper that I suddenly realize should be collaged onto something else. I allow those realizations to happen in a fluid way and act on them even if my original intent in crossing through the room was not to work on a painting.
Ben LaRocco: Well, I think Kaprow is right. My studio is next to my kitchen and sometimes I eat tuna sandwiches while I paint.
Martínez: What is your interpretation of abstract art? Have you ever had one of those “wow” moments when you realized there is a new way of understanding your work and abstract art in general?
Glen Cunningham: My early abstract work in college used to be a group of shapes within a background. They were painted on a traditional rectangular canvas and were strictly two-dimensional. When I was enrolled in a print making class I misunderstood a woodblock assignment and instead of carving an image, I assembled cut pieces of wood within a rectangle. It was too thick to go through the press but I realized I could print each individual shape with individual pieces of paper. And it was when I saw the reassembled pieces as they were coming out that I started thinking about the form without the background. That started me trying to create work on shaped surfaces.
LaRocco: I think abstract art is kind of like feathers on the beach. Sometimes you find some there, sometimes you don’t. Usually you find at least a few. I used to think of it as some kind of cause, some kind of thing beyond other things. Now it seems like a thing among things. I gradually realized that anything I might have to say with paint comes directly from my experience of love, touch, pain etc. and that if you take those very non-abstract things away, there’s not much left for me. So abstraction is just something that happens sometimes. It’s been around as long as everything else. Only our ideas about it change.
Rachael Wren: Ten years ago I never would have believed I’d be making abstract paintings. At that time I was in graduate school and was very committed to painting from observation. I was working directly from the landscape in Seattle, making paintings of trees. The few times that I tried to paint in my studio, away from the motif, I felt like I had nothing to latch onto and was fumbling around in the dark. However, over time my interest in making the space in the paintings thicker and more tangible increased and the trees slowly began to dissolve. I became more concerned with capturing an internal sense of place or memory rather than depicting an actual location and that led me away from representation in my work.
I had an “aha” moment with Andrew Forge’s work - though strangely enough that moment didn’t happen when I was actually looking at his paintings. I remember seeing an exhibition of his work at the NY Studio School in 2001 or 2002, but was not particularly drawn to it. However, a couple of years later those paintings popped into my head and I felt like I needed to see them again immediately. Suddenly something about them made sense to me and I was ready to learn from them.
Mark Dagley: The practice itself demands a commitment, to get your footing so to speak. There are clearly more practitioners then there were ten or 15 years ago, I hope they stick around. But to answer your question, abstract art is the same for me as it was when I first became interested in it.