Response to Richard Tuttle’s Lecture (Franklin Perry Martin)

Response to artist lecture: Richard Tuttle

My first impression when Tuttle began to speak was, ‘Man, this guy has done enough drugs to completely lose his mind.’  His sentences were quiet and disconnected, he appeared to slip into a sort of daydream every couple of minutes, and often would lose his train of thought, pausing for long periods of time to collect himself.  Considering this was my first exposure to Tuttle and his work, I was quick to judge.  In my eyes his sculptures were childish and incomplete.  I was also even further removed from his stylistic tendency given the impression I received from his speaking style.  I assumed, how could someone so spacy have a clear mental image of what he was trying to communicate through his art?

Presently, as some time has passed between seeing him speak and considering his intentions and characteristics, I realize I was far too quick to sweep his credibility from under him before knowing a single fact about him.  From the notes I took during his lecture, and the information presented about him online, I realize that rather than being unable to communicate an idea, Tuttle is caught between the desire to express an expansive emotional feeling using inert symbols and the inability to do so fully.  I now attribute his ‘spacy-ness’ to the difficulties of explaining a deeply profound emotional feeling or realization to a group of people who has not experienced the idea before.  It seems similar to telling a story to a friend, and when unable to explain the true magnitude of the situation, you default to saying ‘you just had to be there.’

Tuttle validates this notion through his recognition of the belief that “art is a spiritual revelation…we have not made a sculpture that fully captures the abstraction of the [human] figure.”  I find this statement interesting and also true.  Interesting because there are so many diverse examples of sculpture of the human figure, from the works of Auguste Rodin to the white dancers erected in the lawn outside the Denver Center for Performing Arts, that at least one could potentially be considered accurate.  On the other hand, I think Tuttle is onto something here relative to the abstract side of the human figure that does indeed exist.  This abstraction, what makes a human who they are- their life choices, past experiences, and emotionality, is nearly impossible to communicate through a singular example of one moment in time.  This, I feel, is the pinnacle of the difficulties Tuttle has in imparting his experiential process of creation to any given audience.

“Richard Tuttle is a Postminimalist artist know for his small, subtle, intimate works.  His art makes use of scale and line…and span a range of media (Wikipedia).”  He has been criticized for just how minimalist his work actually is, and is considered the ‘artist’s artist (Wikipedia).’  I feel as though Tuttle can be considered the ‘artist’s artist’ for the same reason that I found it difficult to understand his motives when I heard him speak.  For other artists, Tuttle’s ideas of abstraction and the inability to fully capture it are easily grasp-able, as they have been considering topics of a similar nature professionally.  For those of us who have not exposed ourselves to these ideals and modes of thought prior to viewing Tuttle’s lecture, this becomes more difficult.

Tuttle’s lecture focused on his second exhibition “What’s the Wind,” a series of sculptures he calls ‘systems.’  These ‘systems’ are designed to “conceive of sculpture as spatial interpenetrations rather than concrete three-dimensional form.  Each sculpture is based on an outer “space frame” and an inner assemblage of elements made from various materials (ArtLog).”  Tuttle admitted that his orientation of the sculptures inside of their frames allows for separation of viewpoints and allows the audience to be brought ‘into’ the sculpture at certain angles.  He explained that the way the brain and eyes work provides a human with many opportunities and options for making sculptures out of what is offered to them.  He continued this thought to expand on this idea with the addition that people would rather be ‘slaves’ than deal with ‘freedom.’  Considering the idea that individuals may limit themselves to interpreting a single art piece in one way only, he attempts to display this learned helplessness through the restraints of his sculpting.

Tuttle’s most profound point relative to his artwork, that I think makes a lot of sense, is his idea that “art invites a number of elements to come into proximity and have a conversation.”  By displaying his sculptures in his unique way, both limited and augmented by their frames, he invites the human audience to come into close contact with his pieces and have a conversation with them- not literally, but in the abstract sense of the word.  This idea is relatively new in terms of artwork in my opinion, considering that I feel that most artists have a specific idea they are trying to explain, whereas Tuttle seems to want his audience to come to their own conclusions regarding his work.  I think that this perspective allows for a more realistic communication between artist, piece, and audience.  Without a strict guideline for interpretation, the audience is able to freely associate themselves with any aspect of the artwork, and (for me) this creates a more legitimate ‘conversation’ between all involved in the process.

Overall, my initial opinion of Richard Tuttle was entirely incorrect.  Considering I was quick and harsh to judge his personal appearance, and this clouded my ability to appreciate the deeper meaning behind his creations.  In the future, I will attempt to keep an open mind when weighing an artist’s personal aesthetic, and afterwards come to a conclusion about their career and creations.

 

Sources:

“Richard Tuttle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Tuttle&gt;.

“Richard Tuttle: What’s the Wind.” Artlog /. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://artlog.com/events/78539-richard-tuttle-what-s-the-wind&gt;.

Response to Frederic Jameson’s Lecture (Franklin Perry Martin)

Response to Frederic Jameson’s Lecture:

Frederic Jameson is a contemporary literary critic and a theorist who follows the Marxist political ideology.  He is a professor at Duke University teaching in The Program of Literature and Romance.  He is most famous for his study and analysis of new world cultural trends, and is credited with the theory that Postmodernism is “the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized Capitalism (Wikipedia).”

Upon entering this lecture, I was unsure of what to expect, as I had no prior knowledge of Mr. Jameson’s profession or mode of thought.  With him being a scholar and intellectual dedicated to the exploration of contemporary political ideologies, I had not had much exposure to the information he planned on discussing with us.  I was surprised both by the amount of information that I understood and also by the considerable portion that went over my head.  He tended to use a lot of terminology associated with his profession and not designed for novice interpretation.  Aside from the fact that I was forced to wade through a large volume of information in a short amount of time, I enjoyed listening to him speak and I appreciate the intricacy of his thought processes.

He began his lecture by speaking about the idea of Postmodernism vs. Postmodernity.  He explained that Postmodernity is the historical and empirical side of the equation, while Postmodernism represents the aesthetics of this idea without the philosophical attributes.  He continued this definition by extrapolating that Postmodernism then becomes a symptom of Postmodernity as a whole, and that art serves as a symptom and/or mode of expression within this sphere.  This interests me because it establishes art as a result of cultural pressure and societal evolution.  This makes sense, given that the manifestation of culture in society is inextricably tied to the current or influential political systems, and that this communication between the individual and the social machine the produces artistic invention, in some cases.

Jameson then moved onto the aesthetics of Singularity and the idea that intrinsic to this is the problem of temporality.  The interplay of the present with the past and future creates a tripartite reality that in turn destroys the permanence of a single notion.  Insofar as he makes this claim, he also adds that the necessary ‘author’ of an original piece is now less realistic, and the creator becomes more of a conduit for the expression of culture at that moment in time.  The expand this, in terms of the visual arts, and within that the existence of installation art, the viewer can witness a ‘disintegration of the older classical artistic system,” which is replaced by an impermanent and dynamic ‘event’ that exists for the ‘now.’

In terms of consumption, according to Jameson, we now consume the medium of presentation itself as well as the content.  The “collection’s logic lies in the interactivity of its pieces,” and uniqueness of creation is no longer as paramount to the process, as the material is already present and through art becomes visible through another frame of mind.  I am a little confused by this point, however at the same time it makes sense in terms of Marshall McLuhan and his paper The Medium is the Message.  Provided with the idea that the medium has advanced to become not only a noticeable facet of creation but one that influences the information presented, these notions of Jameson seem valid.

As far as the presentation of installation art, Jameson adds that the role of the Curator is now changing.  Given that installations can exist in the absence of human upkeep after creation, the omnipresence of the institution (or museum) now provides groundwork for an autonomous system that “transcends the dimensions of the individual.”  Due to this, Jameson hypothesizes that the older styles of artistic and cultural consumption have changed.    He accentuates that the consumption of an idea can have the same result as consuming a book written about that idea, and in that mindset the style of consuming an idea has changed.  Because of this, relative to artwork, if the audience consumes the idea of the work over the work as a whole, the piece itself becomes a mixture of cultural aesthetic and universality.

Jameson the presented his theories on the new styles of cultural mixing, something he termed ‘Postmodern cuisine.’  He explained that mixing occurs now in the form of ‘molecular cooking,’ meaning we witness many more ‘courses’ with strange relations to one another, and therefore a diminished sense of realism.  He claims that we now consume the idea of the ‘taste of asparagus,’ for instance, over consuming the asparagus itself.  He says that because of this we ‘consume a conjuncture of elements in a unique event,’ and ‘even though they still remain under the universal names for food’ the experience has evolved.

I do agree with this, yet at the same time I appreciate the process of cultural mixing more than Jameson appears to.  It seems as though the idea of mixing and changing the original essences of singular items pulls Jameson further away from notions of realism, given that mixing convolutes in some cases.  I on the other hand, think that mixing represents a more realistic presentation of any given item or phenomenon, as the progression of culture is a natural and unavoidable process.  Since this mixing is inevitable, and past events can be defined as aggregates that culminate in a new end at any given moment, I feel that cultural mixing is in fact the most realistic presentation of material humans have to offer.

Regardless of my disagreement with Jameson’s perspective, I appreciated the opportunity to view his lecture, as I would not have been presented with his ideas or the eventual conclusions I drew because of this experience otherwise.  The ideas behind cultural mixing and the evolution of human existence excite me precisely because they are so intricate and potentially inexplicable.  By viewing the end result as a whole, rather than attempting to pick apart and define every moving piece, I believe we can appreciate how intricacy can result in a presentation simple enough to invite human dissection.   Now I just have to manage to get Jameson to sit down with me and discuss my ideas.

 

 

Source:

“Fredric Jameson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fredric_Jameson&gt;.

Response to Ed Ruscha Exhibition (Franklin Perry Martin)

Response to Ed Ruscha’s exhibition at the Denver Art Museum:

Prior to attending this exhibition, I had been unaware of who Ed Ruscha was.  At first when we entered the room containing his works, I was a little disappointed.  I assumed that his presentation of seemingly unrelated quotes on various backgrounds was relatively uncreative and not thought-provoking.  My opinion changed however, when I learned that this exhibition was a collection of quotes chosen for their profundity and pulled from On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  Upon doing some research, I discovered that Ruscha is a prominent artist associated with the pop art movement and has been inspired, in this case especially, by the beat generation.  He has experimented with many mediums and presentation styles in his time including painting, photography, printmaking, drawing, and film (Wikipedia).  This fascinates me, as I generally lose interest in things quickly and therefore find myself jumping around a lot, and have also experimented in film, photography, and drawing myself.

Perhaps the most interesting connection I share with Ruscha is his persistence in creation of ‘word paintings.’  He has been observed creating and presenting “oddly comic and satirical sayings alluding to the popular culture and life in L.A. (Wikipedia).”  In terms of my own artistic creations, I find myself often writing down quotes and sayings I find interesting or funny, and recreating them in various areas whether it’s doodles in my notes or accompanying a drawing.  I find that a phrase presented out of context opens itself to the possibility for many different interpretations, and this idea interests me, as each unique individual will perceive a given sentence differently regardless of context.  This idea of loosening the limitations on a phrase and its meaning also interplay with the new limitations of presenting the phrase in a new medium.

This was evident in Ruscha’s exhibition.  He presents the quotes out of context on unique and various background images that don’t necessarily seem to relate to the text.  This pulls the quote away from its roots in Kerouac’s book, and allows the audience to interpret them as though they exist as a singular entity, which in the case of their presentation, they do.  At the same time the audience is aware of the fact that these quotes have been removed from On the Road.  Therefore the idea that they are being witnessed as autonomous, but serve as a connection between two thoughts within the novel, is also influential on their perceived meaning.

In order to demonstrate this permanent connection with Kerouac’s novel, Ruscha has provided the exhibit with approximately 40 pages of text, removed from On the Road, and each containing one of the quotes he has removed and recreated.  These pages are accompanied by an image- a photograph that exemplifies the quote chosen.  For instance one of Ruscha’s chosen quotes is “IN CALIFORNIA YOU CHEW THE JUICE OUT OF THE GRAPES AND SPIT THE SKIN AWAY, A REAL LUXURY (he presents the phrases in all caps so I chose to as well).”  This image is set on a gray background with a white-capped snowy mountain underneath.  The background and the quote are seemingly unrelated, however the presence of the gray to black color scheme with the snowy mountain has an interesting effect on the quote itself.

Aside from this image, the page of text from Kerouac’s novel is set in a frame next to an image of grapes.  The collection of framed pages and photographs is set in a different area of the exhibition, and can therefore be removed contextually from the quotes presented on their own.  However the presentation of the context of the chosen quotes provides depth to the process of picking them in the first place.  The wall of framed pages from On the Road serves as almost a map for navigating the sea of phrases chosen by Ruscha.

Another phrase Ruscha has chosen reads “COLD BEER BEAUTIFUL GIRLS.”  This phrase is set on an ethereal background of clouds, also on a gray to black to white scale.  It was at this point that I noticed the backgrounds for his quotes are usually mountains or cloud-like imagery.  This creates a feeling associated with travel, experience, observation, and simultaneously provides each quote with a muted background that adds to the image without subverting the value of the quote.  I feel that this style of presentation was also inspired by the impression Ruscha must have gotten from reading On the Road.  This makes me curious about Kerouac’s book, and I’ve added it to my list of novels to read.

At the exhibition there was a book with a collection of Ruscha’s other works.  It was interesting to see the progression of his style through ‘writing’ with liquid words, and using illustration and painting to create images as if liquids or ribbons of paper were spelling words.  Through viewing these earlier works, it was possible to witness the process that led Ruscha to creating his all caps type face for his later work, which is called “Boy Scout Utility Modern (Wikipedia).”

Overall I really enjoyed Ruscha’s exhibition.  Once I had realized that there was a long line of inspired stylistic progression behind the presentation of his works I began to respect his creative process.  It is interesting to me to discover what it is about artistic expression that inspires me, and in the case of Ed Ruscha, I notice an enthusiasm relative to creation that appears as though there is no motive to communicate some greater meaning to an audience.  To me, it seems as though Ruscha chose to pursue to facets of art that he gained the most satisfaction from interacting with.  I feel as though many artists, contemporary or not, possess the ulterior motive of expressing some greater and profound discovery that transcends the presentation of their pieces.  In Ruscha’s case, and regarding his tribute to Kerouac, I observe an interest in the material, and inspiration to present the pieces of On the Road that were meaningful to him.  I appreciate this apparent simplicity of expression.

 

 

Source:

“Edward Ruscha.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Ruscha&gt;.

Clyfford Still Response: (Franklin) Perry Martin

Clyfford Still: A Response to Expressionistic Evolution

Upon visiting the Clyfford Still exhibition in Denver perhaps the most captivating aspect of these works as a whole, for me personally, is the stark progression of Still’s expressionistic style over time.  It is evident from this visit that from the 1930’s onward, Clyfford Still has continued to create works of art brimming with an emotional ferocity that far outreaches the limits of two-dimensional imaging.  Now, in this case the word ferocious might seem slightly over-zealous, as Still does not and has not ever appeared as an artist attempting to express his anger and/or emotional instabilities through his work.  However, I use the word ferocious in this context in order to depict my personal representation of Still’s creations within myself, as they instilled in me the recognition of the idea that ‘artistic’ expression in any medium is not and cannot be fully truncated by the literal or metaphorical canvas.  This vigorous realization took place after having witnessed the full exhibition, and it allowed me, when passing Still’s earlier works on the way out, to begin to appreciate not only the later installments of Clyfford Still but also the earlier ones as an all-encompassing tribute to the internal evolution Still obviously experienced over his lifetime.

Of all of the pieces available for viewing at the exhibition, the most memorable presentation (for myself) turned out to take the shape of written information meant to augment the visual experience.  Ironically it partially contradicts the idea of complete artistic evolution over time by identifying one of the more prevalent themes of Still’s artwork, but in my opinion this statement, a quote from Still himself, best describes the essence of Clyfford Still.  The quote: “My paintings have the rising forms of the vertical necessity of life dominating the horizon.  For in such a land a man must stand upright, if he would live.  And so born and became intrinsic this elemental characteristic of my life and work.”* Prior to reading this statement I had noticed the vertical orientation of almost all of Still’s works, and this quote not only reaffirmed that idea but also made evident the artistic aspiration to portray the liveliness and emotional intensity intrinsic to passion and life.

From the earlier works of Clyfford Still, many of which seem to be presented in mediums other than paint, my personal favorite is a pastel drawing named PP-7, which was created in 1935.  For me this drawing incorporates Still’s tendency to pull away from conventional styles of any given time period.  Still was quoted saying “I never wanted color to be color, texture to be texture, images to become shapes.  I wanted them all to fuse into a living spirit.”*  The image, a drawing of what appears to be a farm hand leaning forward towards the viewer with his hand resting through the upright tines of his pitchfork, is dominated by the long and haggard facial expression of the subject.  In a word, this image is overwhelmingly gaunt.   Although PP-7 is most definitely an image with boundaries and separate colors, the subject’s face, shoulders, and visible hand are elongated, appear desolate, and show the beginnings of Still’s characteristic combination of color, texture, and focal point.  This image also gives the viewer a good indication of the overall deprivation of comfort experienced by the hard-working farmer in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, and this drawing spoke to me is for precisely that reason, it communicates the corrosive power of exhaustion.

The next image that resonated with me is PH-118, completed in 1947.  This image, created 12 years after the pastel mentioned above, is not only a fantastic image but perfectly exemplifies Still’s stylistic progression over the years.  “This painting shows how in the late 1940’s Still mastered the use of bare canvas as an expressive device.”*  In this piece Still uses blank canvas as both a background and an active agent in the image itself.  The sharp jagged edges of shapes painted in this installment interact with the blank space to the extent that the canvas becomes a color itself, and one must wonder before scrutinizing the image up close whether or not the canvas is actually painted a light earthy sand-color.

Aside from the use of space in this painting as a representation of equal importance, the most beautiful aspect of this image and many of Still’s other works is the theme of spiritual flight and/or enlightenment.  In PH-118, there is a white shape in the bottom left corner of the image that appears as if something with close to human form is reaching upward, almost as if the figure is dancing.  This white entity appears to be communicating with the black, bird-shaped silhouette finding itself in the right side center at the top of the painting.  This theme of avian-esque lightheartedness was easily recognizable for myself in many of Still’s works from the late 1940’s on, and began to foster a feeling of excitement within me similar to that feeling of weightlessness.  This weightlessness was (and is) accompanied with a desire to break the necessary conventions to express myself artistically a la Clyfford Still.  Regardless of the medium chosen for this experiment, the emotional accompaniment takes the shape of a refusal to couple any artistic expression with current societal conventions in order to produce a work of art that is as closely representative of my inner mantra as possible.

Lastly, a painting called PH-1049, created in 1977 just three years before Still’s death, definitely stood out.  This image, huge in size and the ultimate testimony to Still’s evolution as an artist, was accompanied by this description: “Though Still began to explore the expressive qualities of empty space in the late 1940’s, his use of bare canvas reached its zenith in these late paintings.  Implied movement also became more vivid, as if painted forms are being set in motion by invisible forces.”*  This image is largely void of paint, and the shapes presented consist of mainly yellows, with a small amount of orange and red.  However aside from the lack of paint in this image, there is a strong energy emanating from within.  As the quote directs our attention, the overall lack of color in this image does allow for the viewer to imagine some sort of un-seeable force guiding the actions of the paint itself.  Also, with the color orientation beginning at the bottom of the painting with red, and then evolving upwards to orange and eventually yellow, there is a chaotic indicator of fire intrinsic to this image.  This left me with the impression that Still himself, although aging, still possessed the unassailable passion for his work that allowed him to become so unique initially.

The freedom depicted by Still’s lack of coverage and the once-again semi-avian shapes in this painting gave me the impression he had reached a period of spiritual complacency in these later years of his life.  More so, a feeling of stylistic graduation was portrayed.  Meaning in this case that Clyfford Still, after decades of artistic creation, had finally reached the crescendo of his journey through Abstract Expressionism.  Although this isn’t necessarily what the artist intended or felt when creating this image, I believe any individual viewer’s interpretation is what makes an image complete, as the artists cannot be present to guide each person’s experience of their work.  I also get the feeling this is why Still himself disavowed the original names of his creations.  In the case of abstract expressionism, a name potentially limits the audience interpretation of an image, and given Still’s intention was to depict life and energy, I see why he would drop any factors that may slight an otherwise genuinely emotional manifestation in his viewer.

As someone with little experience in the art world, this exhibition was the perfect introduction into the spheres of abstract and contemporary art.  And although Clyfford Still doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of Contemporary given the years he was alive, his work absolutely represents a contemporary perspective relative to shattering current conventional ideas of expression regardless of temporal limitation.   Subsequently setting the idealistic groundwork for artists producing works defined truly by themselves rather than society, so characteristic of more recent movements.

 

* All factual statements and quotes with asterisks afterwards were gathered from the exhibition itself, and therefore I was unsure how to cite them in-text.  For this purpose, none of the information accompanied by an asterisk should be considered my own input.

Images referred to in my paper, in order of appearance:

PP-7, 1935                                      PH-118, 1947                                    PH-1049, 1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Franklin) Perry Martin Intellectual Profile

1. Give some basic information about your studies and fields of interest.

-I’m a senior playing with the idea of this being my last semester at CU.  I’m majoring in Psychology, studying Advertising, and currently planning to intern for an agency called SpotCo in NYC this summer.  I’m one of those rare geeky goons that digs school, and basically I pursue anything that I see as an opportunity to broaden the ol’ horizons.  I’m not quite sure what I’ll get into regarding my ‘talents’ after school ends, but it’s looking like the entrepreneurial track is what suits me best.  And that’s definitely because it’ll give me the most freedom to bend the rules=> creative control + startups + makin scrilla = one happy ballin blond kid, get me?

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What is Contemporary Art- Response by (Franklin) Perry Martin

Smith is mainly addressing the confusion surrounding issues of artistic definition.  He titles his installation “What is Contemporary Art,” and subsequently highlights the dilemma currently disallowing the definition of today’s artistic period.  Given that the world as we know it has finished its geographical expansion, the questions now become: How does one categorize the numerous examples of “contemporary” art extending from a level of cultural influence down to one of individual expression?  Merely considering the vast pool of artistic works that any given enthusiast, curator, collector, etc. has the opportunity to witness, has in fact, the ability to define the current period of art been lost completely?  Or as with artistic periods of the past- Modernism, Post-modernism, etc., is the defining factor one that can only be identified once the ‘period’ has necessarily ended?  Also, Smith considers the implications of classifying the history of contemporary art, and explains that this task is also relatively unachievable given that there is no distinct pathway that leads to the proliferation of “contemporary art” as a cultural entity. Continue reading