This one is in some ways subtle, and yet in the same way screams, as in it’s a loud image. I don’t know what others will think of this, and you have to be in the right frame of mind to get it. I’ve left the imagery “indefinite” very deliberately so that it is very suggestive as to imagery, but doesn’t define what that imagery is. If you zoom in, there’s nothing really there. There are overlapping lines, but no evidence of “illustration”. If you think you see a specific figure, when you zoom in, it’s gone.
Here, while I was working on this, I had a sort of breakthrough for me, or at least so it seemed while I was working on it. I decided finally that I don’t care what the image looks like up close. Traditionally, I labor over the fine details of the surface, details nobody would see unless the image was printed out several feet wide and the viewer walked right up to it to inspect. But here I’m more about riding the cusp between abstraction and figuration, and the image comes together at a certain distance. We could say it resonates at a certain frequency that you need to tune into. The resultant illusion, which is very much like a vision, is all that matters. This is visual art, and the idea is (for me) to create a new vision for the eye and mind.
This succeeds formally as a drawing partly because of the strong blacks and whites and general composition. Oddly, though it is only a drawing, as in only a layering of strokes, it has a photographic look. This, if you see it, is because I took my flat strokes and make them three dimensional. The figure on the left, whatever you see it as, definitely reads as having a three-dimensional form. At the same time, it’s very much flat strokes, which the white circle enforces. So, it sits on the fence between figuration and abstraction, the 2D and the 3D.
The image rewards spending some time with it, because, as I said, while it is resolved and delineated, it is not definite in terms of the subjects and your mind will see different images and relations.
And now for a little bit of a personal ramble. I’m watching UFC 208, and I just finished watching the match with Anderson Silva. If you know your UFC, he’s one of the all-time greats. Well, he’s now 41, and I was thinking about his age before he won the fight (by decision), and then in his impromptu speech after the fight he said, “I’m too old to fight”. This is largely true. It’s a sad, sad spectacle to watch older fighters get in the ring, and get pummeled because they just don’t have the energy, stamina, speed, or reflexes afforded naturally to anyone a decade younger. If you’ve seen Muhammad Ali’s last fights, you know what I’m talking about.
Anderson Silva is 41. I’m 51. How different it is when you are an artist, though many I think, including a younger me, would think at 50 your a no longer in your prime, and quite likely washed up. Am I too far gone, expired, living on borrowed time, or are there big surprises ahead (of a good sort)? We might also think of rock musicians – if you don’t know I’m a huge rock fan and consider the best rock songs among the best art of the 20th century, and would take Zeppelin over Duchamp any day – and how they also seem to peek in their 20s-30s. I don’t know why it’s so rare for a rock musician in his or her 50s to crank out relevant new material. If they are doing it, I don’t know much about it. I think it’s less about their musical capabilities than about the subject matter associated with the music, and how vulnerable the music is to fad, and needs to appeal to a younger audience. Money is critical. If a rocker in his or her 50’s could crank out some substantial new work, different and more evolved than their earlier work, with more depth and meaning, there might be no paying audience for it.
The good news is that age is a myth. You never get older. Your body gets older but you are not your body, but rather your consciousness, which is shapeless, colorless, and ageless. Skills which rely on consciousness, which is ever fresh because always in the present, are viable as long as the consciousness isn’t compromised. Thus you see artists like Picasso or Monet doing some of their best work in their 80s. It may be that the art historical lens that wrongly believes art is a series of movements, one evolving out of another and replacing it, sees that late work of such artists as clinging to antiquated and irrelevant styles. However, another, better, and more accurate way of looking at it is that they have continued to evolve their own individual voices, irrespective of stylistic fads. Honestly, would people really prefer that Monet had switched over to Cubism around 1910? So many people see visual art through the rhetorical lens of language and argument, but I’m writing a long post about that so won’t go into it here.
I feel my age is about perfect for making visual art. It’s odd how much younger people are favored, including the younger version of myself. When I was in my twenties, I was accepted in every college I applied to, and when I sent off slides to a gallery, they got back to me and I exhibited two pieces in a group show, pieces I’d created while an undergraduate. Now, if it’s possible at all to get recognition, I don’t know how it’s going to happen. For now I’ll just keep cranking out new images. As I was saying, though, this age is great for making art because ones mind is fresh, but one also has a lot of lived experience to triangulate. In fact, this series is in a style I worked with in my twenties. This image is much like some of my charcoal drawings where I used the same approach. The biggest difference is just the mediums, but also what I can come up with and render. I’m a better artist now than I was then. Nevertheless, I do think I’d better take advantage of the small window I have now where I can make art, because I can’t count on that in even the near future.
Here’s all 21 pieces in the series so far in a slideshow.
Or, if you prefer, you can see them in a click-through gallery:
To see other posts about other pieces in this series, go here.
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