Inspiration for me comes from research into modern art history and design; this research sustains me, keeps my practice fresh, and provides me with ideas. Combining new ideas with playfulness and a fun-ﬁlled approach is what keeps my painting alive. The interlocking, curved shapes of my painting ‘Say Hello to the New Pink’ might come from multiple inﬂuences, from my study of Matisse to my interest in textiles.
I also ﬁnd that sense of play in scarf design, which began for me with research into the history of scarves. My favorite designers are Emilio Pucci and Vera Neumann, and I wanted to bring the beauty, bright color and playfulness of their scarves into my painting practice. The inﬂuence infused the high-minded seriousness of painting with the sense of fun I was seeking.
Then I began designing my own scarves. I quickly found out how difﬁcult it is, as difﬁcult as making a good painting, but for different reasons. Incorporating a border and making it visually balanced from all directions, these are things I work out with many drawings before I get it right; my ‘Caffé Roma’ design began with many preliminary sketches. A beautiful scarf can ﬁll the heart with joy in much the same way that a painting can, and this is why I plan to turn my ‘buddies of work’ into silk. –Jessica Snow, 2014
When I started this painting I had a fixed plan. I’ve learned over time that having a fixed plan is detrimental to my painting process, but I have a natural propensity for order and it’s always a challenge–and a goal to let go and free-fall. I’ve always admired people who are unselfconscious and fearless, and lucid in their thinking; it’s the polar opposite of me. Yet I’m a closet show-off without the natural bravura, so I’ve managed to find a way to express myself in all my split-personality glory. I like dichotomies. My work is full of them. I found this photomontage of these women and their hairstyles and instantly knew it had to be the buddy image for my painting BIG HANDS. It isn’t the natural order of things for the companion image to inspire a completed artwork, but this particular photo embodies the energy and driving force behind my work as a whole.
My initial plan for this painting was to fill up the canvas with found text that I’d assemble and paint in a specific way. But as the painting progressed and the idea fell flat, it evolved into something else—like a giant robotic figure. Once the painting was done I began to research intergalactic images which led to funk music and its fashion styles. I stumbled upon this photo during my search. I feel a kinship with these hairdos. There is nature versus the artificial; the loose versus the hard edge—recurring elements that are also at play in my work. Their hair has been painstakingly styled into precise sculptural and geometric forms in bright, saturated colors. It’s a deliberate process, yet daring and dynamic in its spirit and final resolution. I’d like to think of it as a type of free-fall—in a controlled-paint-drip-kind-of-way. Erika Ranee, 2014
About three years ago letter forms started creeping into my paintings. At first I had an obsession with X not because it was a letter but because it could be read as a negation. It lead me to think about other letters in terms of their compositional iconography. Then last winter I thought: well, why not words?
I think about words, phrases, the structure of language, and the making of meaning in a practical way on a daily basis. I have worked as an English as a foreign language teacher for seven years. At first that work was separate from what I do as an artist but over time there have been some interesting cross-overs.
Even though I’ve been starting with letters and words to inspire the composition (and sometimes color or texture) I don’t mind if the painting takes over and the whole thing becomes illegible. I’m sometimes hesitant to talk about the words in the painting because I don’t want to impinge on whatever meaning the viewer has constructed for him/herself. The compositions are a kind of visual game, so even if the viewer can’t immediately see a word, perhaps over time a message can emerge. Or not, and that’s fine. That’s one of the way my work as a teacher and as an artist differs; I’m always trying to get my students to communicate clearly while in my own work I’m happy to cultivate interpretation.
This is a painting I made in the spring of this year titled Loves or Leaves and a discussion worksheet I made awhile back for my students in Art Club. -Nichole van Beek, 2013
There’s a well-worn path between my studio and the kitchen in my live/work apartment. When I’m not in the studio making paintings, I’m in the kitchen cooking. In both places, I engage my interest in material transformation, and satisfy my impulse to make things by hand. Sometimes I unintentionally set up still-lives as I cook that find their way into my paintings. Other times, the visceral qualities of the cooking process end up being translated into painting somehow. More often than not, a problem I have been trying to solve with a painting gets resolved as I’m chopping or stirring. As I move back and forth between these two physically proximate spaces, the psychological pathway between them fosters my best thinking, which, for me, happens when I’m using my hands.
The first image here is a small acrylic painting on paper from 2011 called Claimy. Below it is a picture of Julia Child eating an oyster, cut out of a 1979 cookbook that has been on the wall in my studio for about seven years. I have a collection of vintage cookbooks I look at often, but this image has particular resonance for me. One of the things I love about it is that even though the scene is quite self-consciously staged for a photo shoot, Julia is clearly experiencing joy and sensual pleasure- a real immersion in the moment. I like how the 1970’s color palate and staging provoke my own questions of taste, while the lusciousness and abundance of the oysters in their propped-up bowl stirs appetite and desire. I always paint from reference in some form, but it wasn’t until long after this painting was finished and hanging on the studio wall that I could see its clear relationship to the picture of Julia and her oyster tablescape. –Susan Bricker, 2013
My color field text paintings began incorporating imagery over a year ago. This reintroduced some of the problems of traditional painting into my work, such as figure ground relationships. I have become preoccupied with creating fine gradations of color in what would be the “negative space” of the painting. However, I find it ironic that such a distinction can be made, for, while an image/composition is created, it is also simultaneously an “all over” painting, devoid of compositional hierarchies, consisting of evenly spaced word blocks. Regardless, it is fascinating to me that it is possible to create spatial tension through color relationships alone.
Making the large text/image paintings can leave me physically and mentally exhausted, so I sometimes like to blow off steam and make smaller, more experimental pieces on the side. On one recent occasion, I decided to “loosen up” a bit and play with gradations of color without the text, devising the tapering diagonal stripes and a simple system of where each color would go. I’m very interested in Op Art, so it was fun to create my own take on it off the cuff. The color relationships in this painting ended up being a big part of California Dreamin, so in this way it was also a color study, albeit an unconscious one. –Erik den Breejen, 2013
Benjamin King’s recent paintings and sculpture dig into metaphysical terrain, but are also firmly rooted in the materials and physical process of painting, not to mention the planet outside his studio. These areas of focus are evident in a large-scaled black painting that hearkens back to Rothko’s late Chapel works. Acned with stone fragments, glitter and lumps of medium and paint, this painting invokes Rothko’s gravitas, but without the associated angst. A down to earth kind of spirituality, if you will. (It merits mentioning that King is an avid rock climber). Blobby forms appear on either side of the canvas, resembling lava lamp ooze floating to the surface. They suggest an evolutionary phase in the history of a prehistoric place, but also seem apparitional and without absolute reference–both solid and transparent, apropos of the kind of metaphysics at work in his studio.
The presence of natural objects in the above work highlights a relationship between King’s studio practice and his movements in the world, his practice of collecting objects outside of the studio, sometimes rearranging them where found, and sometimes hauling them back to the studio for some doctoring up. In this case, the medicine is paint or, stretching the metaphor over into psychology, group therapy for objects. Dozens of small sculptures composed of stacked and painted rock, wood chunks, and branches, methodically arranged on various surfaces (including a long row of radiators under some windows), people King’s space. Some of the groups sit on palettes that can be wheeled around the room. Others rest within improvised sand boxes atop weathered, metal tables. (King has also been collecting this particular kind of table which I’ve seen used as bases for industrial sinks).
I can’t help but anthropomorphize King’s stacked stones and chunks of wood and imagine them in conversation with one another as well as the paintings that border them. They loosely remind me of recent work by Jennifer Reeves who constructs small, abstract sculptures out of mixed media and photographs them in real landscape settings. Both Reeves’ and King’s share a common genealogy with roots in abstraction. In contrast to Reeve’s narrative photographs, however, King’s tableaux don’t direct the narrative nor hint at a relationship to specific events; but instead work like three dimensional sketches that both comment on King’s studio practice and reveal the artist as a flaneur and collector. They also beg many questions (beyond the scope of this article) about what happens to an object once its relationship to a place and history gets severed. Maybe we just call that art.
The largest sculpture in the room (Time Tunnel) is constructed of two bulky planks of ancient wood, the first of which King dug out of the street on Second Avenue one night after the construction crew left the scene; and the other, part of a pier King found washed ashore in Red Hook. King emailed recently about their history in in a way that reflects on his general approach to the objects he collects:
The original roads in Brooklyn have these huge wood beams that run across the road like the wood in train tracks. The city was probably trying to access something beneath this strata and had to cut out this wood that has been buried for more than half a century. The wood was covered in mud and mold. I let it dry for weeks then cleaned it. I did not change the form of it at all though. The top piece is drift wood from red hook probably once part of a pier. The pieces were found many months apart from each other. The red hook piece I found last fall and the other the spring of that same year. When I got them in the same room it was pretty clear right away that they went together.
This piece effectively functions as a totem to myriad histories and purposes, but without the incumbent symbolism associated with totems. It also has a machine-like presence that reminds me of a primitive clock or antenna. There is a complex collaboration at work here as well between nature, historical context, and the artist. All of these forces have left a variety of natural and human-made hieroglyphics, mixing languages of chance with utility, and colluding finally with the speculative physics King applies to reconstruct and reorient time.
All of the works I saw this day at King’s studio shared a primordial physics that oscillates between moments of light and heavy gravity. The brownish painting below, for example, with its variegated thicket of marks, and trunk-like form dominating the background, appears at first intractably dense. But each mark also seems to exert its own force and place against the others like a cluster of negatively charge particles. The scene feels like a compression of energy that is ready to burst.
A larger canvas against another wall extends the metaphor of energy in a more subdued direction. In this work, a background of raw canvas forms an arc over several foregrounded mound shapes. The paint here is thinly applied with an economy that King likens to “sword strokes”. The painting reminds me immediately of Milton Avery’s reductive approach to the landscape, only here the allusions to landscape maintain a coy ambiguity. The mounds, painted in different values of gray, huddle along the bottom edge of the canvas, inviting a number of readings, but also satisfying as abstractions without a necessary context. They seem at once monumental and minute, potentially referencing mountains from a distance or pebbles up close. After awhile I start to see them as figures, and then sheets shrouding something indefinite but substantial. Perhaps that last reading is a decent way of characterizing the kind of abstraction King is up to in much of his work. Invisible but there.
Currently, my art practice seems to be divided into two expressions of form that strive to reach the same goal, but do so using different means. I would say that untitled (triclops) is the result of my primary sculptural impulse; a form which parasitically hugs the ground similar to the way we often look out into the world for our own stability. We use whatever we have experienced, acquired, and developed faith in, to maintain our upright existence. However, somewhere within me is also a singular strength. Though it appears less frequently in my work, making it my secondary sculptural form, it seems to represent an aspect of self that is autonomous. Regardless of how visually precarious its effort might appear, untitled (pole) represents this notion as it remains standing using one solid base to support its various parts that rest one on top of each other. -Kirk Stoller, 2013