GEOLOGIC PORTRAITS, MAY 2007

As always, I want to create an absorbing presence that the viewer is struck by and then involuntarily finds they’re immersed more deeply in, considering associations and layers of meaning. I want the pieces to have the presence of deities and the universality of something wholly common and infer the mystery of these relationships. Through a repetition of morphing forms surrounding the figures, I try to investigate psychological identity by exploring individual space in an abstracted context.

These pieces are an effort to re-contextualize the figure and make tactile something ephemeral, elusive, mystical. They are about geologic, immediate and simultaneous time. They are about parsing reality with the abstract artillery of line and surface, and making the void substantive by an inversion of positive and negative space.

The abstracted ground surrounding the figures suggests sedimentary strata evoking process and time, organic growth reaching critical mass, the mysticism of psychedelia, mandalas, aboriginal mark making.

The pieces also involve the collision of slow art and fast art and the tension that springs from that meeting.

And, they are straight ahead portraiture.

White Paintings


My paintings are about purity and pure states of consciousness. They are conceptually driven towards beautiful ends. They are about capturing an essence, an instant depicted in space, vastness, color used as one saturating emotion and not anecdotally descriptive, a symphony of whites, lush paint, lean paint, glossy, matte, they are pared down to essentials, symbolic yet particular. They are about varying qualities of time - the immediacy of mark-making, the geological wait for thick oil paint to dry, a breath, the time of a wave. They are about the contrasting nature of the evolved and built worlds. They are about people engaged in metaphorically charged simple activities - drawing in the air, painting with a broom. They are about something new and something classic and commonplace - standing, meditating, reading.

And they are mostly white, the white of clear eyes, positivity, lightness, truth, an abstraction held at a distance from cause and effect. The use of white(s) aims to eliminate all things extraneous, to make nothingness substantive. White is like light shining through these times of darkness.

The panels with elements in relief explore the hidden architecture in arrangements of blister packs - the injection molded plastic protective invisible packaging we toss out when opening a new toy, a pill, an acupuncture needle, almost anything portable that will then exist in landfill for millennia forever announcing our moment of purchase, conveyance and consumption.

This repurposed flotsam of consumerism creates complex spaces more suggestive of our collective corruptibility than purity. The blister pack panels have high associative value - contemporary totems, urban aerial views, chromosomal maps, circuit boards, mandalas - and act, in part, as a sort of coded identity for the figures.

The figures in my work anchor my leaning towards the conceptual and emotive. A linear depiction at once cuts to the soul, and is abstract. Surrounding the figures is a subtle corona quietly radiating its physical presence. The scale and lush, varied, nuanced surface of these pieces heightens their impact.

The work is about oneness and contrasts: the moment vs. the eternal, the juxtaposition of thin layers of matte paint with buttery layers of glossy paint, figuration in counterpoint to abstraction, the literal in relation to the poetic. The white unifies while materials clash. These stark opposites yield a profound energy - one enhances and defines the other, much like the life force tension graphically revealed by the Chinese yin/yang symbol.

Diptychs are a natural environment for this conceptual backdrop where two contrasting entities form one whole, like an open book. Symmetrical and asymmetrical triptychs add to this sense of revelation.

2005

Dear Bill,

Yes, my initial response to Steve Schwartz was one of admiration and delight, partly because I felt this work--"Pathways of Stretch" and "Wave"--echoed my own sensibility in ways and also solved aesthetic problems by inventing a compositional technique that fuses opposites and contrary states of mind involved with texture versus linear effects, panoramic versus specific, light versus darkness, etc. His use of duplicity, psychic distance, as well as the concision, economy of line, and the idea of negation appear to me as strengths, which almost blend into one another to achieve intensity resonant of the best of Egon Schiele and the German Expressionists. The emotional immediacy of the work arises partly out of the contrast between the way the dense oil layered in concentric circles is brought about through both line and texture. Materials appear to be utilized without ever emphasizing them. Materials are a means to an end. There are no extraneous elements. Yes, they are surface-intensive, but I think they capture the intensity of fleeting impressions: as if the wind were blowing away the imprints in the sand. Perhaps, the nicest effect is this one: the idea that beauty is fleeting and the most beautiful images are always threatening to escape or have already escaped. I see the dense oil layered in concentric circles as a possible screen of consciousness out of which the delicate inscriptions on the right will soon disappear and fade. It is a careful balance he has achieved between design and content. The articulate use of line is at odds with the threat of the dense oil layered in concentric circles and its ability to destroy the way that time destroys. In "Wave," we are also affected, if only subconsciously, by the powerful archetype of the ocean and the connotations of the ocean of time. I think, however, that none of this needs explanation. The work is necessary and essential on both the plane of analysis and the plane of aesthetics. It succeeds, I think, on the strength of the analytical and sensitive expression of line, which is only enhanced or accentuated by the underlying emotional force of the subject matter. The women figures are charged with intensity and passion.

Thank you for introducing me to this work. I feel like whenever I discover a new work like "Wave" that it restores something lost in the disquiet of the moment. It has a timeless feel. The expressive lines conquer certain anxieties within the viewer while articulating them, the way that Cezzanne has the power to excite and relax at once. Black and white accentuate this feeling. I always thought that using line the way that Schiele uses it--with both analytical rigor and feeling--was one of the most exciting elements of the German expressionists, and one I have not seen much of lately. I would like to see some more of this. Once again, I appreciate the introduction to this work. Are there others on the website?

Best,

James

 

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