Monday, February 28, 2011

Artist Talk: Mary Early

     Mary Early is an artist born, raised and working in and around the Washington DC area. She is a sculptor who primarily works with beeswax, wood and resin among other substances. Her works call to mind natural occurring objects and subjects. In her own words Early stated that she intended to, "Make works that seem like they made themselves." At the same time Early creates works that "exploit" the architecture of the rooms that contain them through a "repetition of line". By exploiting the architecture of a gallery, she sets out to hint at the idea that a shape (as seen in her pieces) in space can continue infinitely.
     This was the idea that I found most compelling during Mary Early's talk. The idea that these works/shapes are only the start of something much larger places a much larger emphasis on interaction with the viewer. I also thought it was very interesting that Early fully accepts the "accidental variations" that come up during the creative process, as when she is assembling her large wooden "honeycomb-like" works with a mix of water and glue. As the water causes the wood to slightly warp, Early fully works with this as a key factor of the piece; and this, in my opinion, makes the pieces seem way more natural and even more "familiar" to a viewer as the piece does not actually seem "perfect."Hearing Mary Early talk about her work and seeing photographs of her work makes me want to be able to experience the works first hand.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Artist Talk: Ryan Browning

Birth of an Island, 2008

Professor Browning's work really draws on his experience of interests that he has had throughout his life. I found it particularly interesting, and a little amusing, that he found inspiration in his experiences with Dungeons & Dragons and video games like Everquest. The influence on games like D&D can be seen in his work dealing with spaces; as they approach the viewer as having just been vacated by the person/creature that represented Browning's experiences. Browning pointed out that in creating his works, such as the collage Supercontinent, he was thinking of and deal with the "importance of travel" and of the idea of boundaries, and idea that comes up often throughout his work.
     Another idea that I thought was very compelling in Browning's work was his ideas of "suggesting a mythology", one that continues through his work. This idea harkens back to his experience with role-playing games, in that he is creating a world, or worlds, that can compel the viewer to imagine what life would be like in these spaces, without being forced to by seeing a specific person or character occupy these spaces. I personally also really thought his ideas about painting as being "interactive" because it makes the whole process seem much more enjoyable, as opposed stressful, which is how I normally view that specific process. As a whole, seeing Ryan Browning talk gave a nice insight into how contemporary artists work and thinking about their experiences.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Artist Post: Ellsworth Kelly (As Seen at the National Portrait Gallery)

Blue on White, 1961

     Ellsworth Kelly's painting, Blue on White, is a prime example of the artist working in the midst of their artistic niche. Kelly was able to study art in Paris starting in 1948 as part of a grant from the G.I. Bill, after having served in WWII, and in Paris it is where he began to paint in a more Surrealistic style in comparison to his earlier more "realistic" style (MoMA). Once he began to work in a surrealistic and abstract manner, he never looked back. After living and working in Paris for several years, Kelly moved back to the U.S. in 1954 and settled in New York with the belief that, "... Abstract Expressionism was not so dominant as to preclude an acceptance of his art" (MoMA). After settling in New York Kelly began to work on large canvases that, " Juxtaposed blocks of single, flat colors with silhouetted shapes, abstracted from organic forms" (MoMA). Looking at this piece, one can see Kelly's style at work; the fluffy blue shape seems to dominate the canvas at first, but upon closer inspection, the angular white edges begin to cut into the blue (National Portrait Gallery). This serves to create a sense of harmony and disharmony at the same time. These "flat shapes" (as seen in Blue on White) serve to preserve and intensify his memories of things seen swiftly, such as glimpses of leaves, grass and cracks in the wall (National Portrait Gallery). 
     I think that this is what is at work in Blue on White. The painting is a more of a feeling then an actual representation, but the feeling calls to mind what Kelly could have been thinking of during the creative process. However, it is important to keep in mind that kelly was "not interested" in assigning meaning to his work. He preferred to, "... Create shapes and colors so vivid they seem like three-dimensional objects" (National Portrait Gallery). With this in mind, it becomes almost impossible to gain any one meaning into the work. Instead the viewer is able to draw their own connections and relate to the work in multiple, unique ways. It is as if Kelly is challenging the viewer with this vague shape and asking what the viewer is thinking, seeing or feeling.
     Personally, I think this is an amazing work. The main reason I think so is because it gives so much to the viewer and asks for so little. You can take your own view/meaning into the piece, and because it is so deceptively simple, you do not have to have any prior knowledge to really "understand" the work. The painting hits you full on and you can only "feel" it and the more you look at it, the more it looks familiar and the more it looks "real", which I think adds to the piece's accessibility.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Artist Post: Jim Johnson (found from Rhizome)

Brick Drawings, 1999

This series of "drawings were developed in a collaboration between Jim Johnson, who at the time was a faculty member in the department of Fine Arts at the University of Colorado, several scientists from the school's Computer Science department and a "robot computer" developed at MIT (Brick Drawings). The computer, which was built from Lego bricks and two motorized wheels, was able to respond to certain stimuli and when a pencil or pen would be attached to it, the "Brick" would be able to trace marks made by the artist or "respond" to these marks (Brick Drawings). For example, "... When short strokes were drawn across the path of the 'Brick' it would respond by backing up and moving in another direction (Brick Drawings). Some of the artist-Brick collaborations included drawing lines or boxes to contain the drawing Brick, but eventually the Brick would trace the outline of these shapes and move outwards. While the project produced interesting results, the artist, Jim Johnson, found difficulty in incorporating these experiences with the "Brick" into his own artwork, however it did rekindle his interest in "analog art", such as drawing by hand (Brick Drawings).
From what I can see by looking at the results of this artist-computer based collaboration, I think these drawings are bringing up the idea of just how much influence the artist himself or herself may have in the actual art-making process. Since in these pieces, the artist was simply providing an "environment" for the "Brick" to operate in, with only some additional input. However, these pieces sort of twist your mind in thinking about what exactly did the artist plan, what did they have control over, and when did they lose control? WHere does the artist become a tool for a machine? But it is also important to notice the conclusion of this series of pieces brought up, in that the artist was inspired to return to more traditional methods of art-making. I feel that this is important to know because it shows the artist is coming to a realization of the human-computer/robot connection, in this case the artist does not need the computer, and this bond is broken.
I personally think that these pieces would only be successful in a show if the "Brick"/computer was present to show viewers the exact process. Without knowledge of how the "Brick" worked, the pieces seem "soulless"; they have no context without the science behind them. I also think it would have been interesting to see these pieces in addition to Johnson's next series of work after collaborating with the "Brick", doing this would give the viewer both sides of this situation; the human-computer bond and how the human is shaped/scarred from these moments. (Side Note: The more I look at these drawings, they begin to seem more scientific to me, like they are diagrams for a complex math equation instead of a series of drawings).