Monday, February 14, 2011

More from CAA

Last Friday's programs at the CAA Conference included a panel discussion of current practices in painting, a presentation of global opportunities for artists who want to work outside the US (and for artists from away looking to come here to work), and finally, an interview with Mel Chin.

There's a unresolved conflict between the modernist notion that paintings are objects, and post-modern practice which posits that paintings are events that take place over time, and that the resulting image is simply the residue of those events. When I'm working, I like knowing that the essence of change is always implicated in the painting, and that paintings come out of doubt rather than out of historical certainty. The unresolved conflict bit comes in when, in spite of the painter's doubts and uncertainties, the paintings themselves are inevitably resolved not only as objects, but often even as uncomplicated objects of beauty.

One of the presenters - my notes don't record which one - spoke of the computer as offering a new complexity for painters, a new way toward the sublime. I like that idea too - that the sublime as located by the Hudson River Painters for instance, and as run to ground by the Abstract Expressionists, will now have a 21st century residence.

And then, Mel Chin. Since the early 90's and Revival Field, I have been in awe of his decision to move away from making discrete objects and toward implicating all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, in taking responsibility for the things that are wrong with society. In awe too of his ability to put ideas into practice. Using imagination and humor rather than ham-fisted accusations achieves much. Have a look at his Fundred project for cleaning up the lead pollution in New Orleans. Make your own Fundred Dollar Bill and send it in. I have my template ready to color in.

Image: Geologics, oil on canvas, detail, has absolutely nothing to do with Mel Chin, but very much to do with paintings as objective accretions of process, and a whole lot more to do with Google limiting today's image choices to its surreptitious storage on Picasa of my own work.

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