Monday, October 27, 2014

The Curious Vision

Artwork is the perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

"Information" Hanne Darboven, 1973, artist's book, 72 pages

This dictum is well illustrated by a very unusual piece on display at the Hirshhorn Museum (Washington, DC) exhibition, “At the Hub of Things”.  The work by Hanne Darboven, entitled “27K-No8-No26” consists of nearly 150 typewritten sheets which are framed in classic skinny black metal frames.

The grid is fine, although the arrangement is asymmetrical:  7 rows of 19, and a bottom row of 16.  The bottom row is perhaps 4 feet below eye level so it isn’t immediately evident, but the arrangement is very curious.

And the typing on each page is also vastly curious:  mathematic formulas, groupings that add one character per sheet, hand written notes delineating every ten marks; enigmatic formulas that follow the arrangement of numerals, characters, punctuation marks…funky, bizarre, compulsive. 

The dozens of typewritten pages are not a single sequence.  Several different ideas make the collection all the more interesting.  I’ve never heard of this artist, but the piece got me to search a little, check it out, and learn some— pretty cool, pretty fun. 

Her work on Google Images reveals page after page as her modus operandi: whether scribbles, numbers (numerals actually), or equations, the incessant nature of her artwork/installations is a hallmark.

Hanne Darboven’s artwork at the Hirshhorn exhibition is quite unusual.  The ubiquitous 70’s grid got filled with Darboven’s personal formulas and mathematical progressions.  All that empty space, every bit of it is earnestly filled. 

”27K-No8-No26”, as its title might suggest, is different from the other pieces displayed at the Hirshhorn, even though it shared some basic formal elements of grid, repetition, and text.  Really different; it’s the result of an artwork which is entirely idea based, rather than aesthetically based.

(Hanne Darboven, photo by Gianfranco Gorgoni, date unknown)

Hanne Darboven’s artwork made me realize that I knew how to look at abstract paintings, but that viewing conceptual art was a different experience.  It was fun to have disorientation again when confronted by artwork--from the 70's!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Stillness Project

When I read the phrase, “Receive my Peace” in Susan Young’s daily devotional Jesus Calling I knew I had the bones of a nice inspirational image for the Facebook.

In the throes of my new grid based artworks, the idea had morphed into arrays of individual panels.  I’d just completed a couple dozen small white boxes.  Moving the piles around had gotten interesting as I began stacking them artfully.  I’d taken 62 photos as each box added to the stack made for a new arrangement.

There would be plenty to choose from to illustrate the “Receive My Peace” concept.

Surprisingly, this was not the case.  Looking with the guiding principle of “Peace” I found these images—every one of them—very busy.  

This was disturbing.  I thought that these little white boxes were undeniably quiet works.  No.

For a guy who uses “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34) in his artist’s statement, I had some thinking to do.
Cube Drawing,  Graphite and Acrylic on Prepared Paper  1993  ©   James Thatcher

What was peace and how is it expressed?

Layout Template for "Discovering the Broken Obelisk" , Artist's Book, The Art Library, Brooklyn, NY
The concept of “stillness” came forward:  the square is a practical expression of equilibrium and balance because it is equal on all sides.  It can be an effective symbol of stillness.  

Surface quality was something to consider as well.  Is my signature heavy texture indicative of peace?  Not so much…

Then, in a conversation with a friend about “The Stillness Project” the idea of the color of peace came up.  What is the color of peace?  
Yves Klein regarding the color "Blue"     photo credit Harry Shunk

Perhaps it’s not one color but a range with peaceful application? 

This is the path I am choosing at the moment.  

Peace is alert with conscious choices occurring.  It isn’t sleep, right?  It’s a state of being.  Going back to the original idea, we are to “Receive His Peace”.  Being in the world, but not of the world; it is a gift from The Prince of Peace which we either accept or reject.