Here is a sculpture that I made up on Saunders Farm in Garrison, NY in 2008. I wanted to make a shoddy replica of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the same proportions: 1:4:9. This one is twelve feet tall by sixty inches by eighteen inches and is made entirely of quarter inch unfinished plywood and 2″x4″‘s cut to size. I built it over a 5 day period up on the farm. I had to first dig a series of trenches in the ground in order to bury the make shift base that I built for it to keep it from falling over in the wind or when the cows and horses would rub up against it. This was difficult and took the better part of a day because the sculpture was being built on a hill so all 4 corners of my base had to be at different depths in order to make the final sculpture relatively vertical. I was told that I couldn’t leave any open holes in the ground overnight since the cows and horses would come by in the evening and they could break their legs in them. I was under a lot of stress to finish before evening since I ran into difficulties trying to get the base deep enough and I remember, as it started to get dark, looking behind me and through the fog seeing a herd of cows and horses coming my way. Before I knew it one cow had its head in my open car window, and one was looking in the back of my car’s hatch and a goat was standing on top of part of my studio mate’s art piece that I agreed to take up in my car and had carelessly left on the ground. I tried to make them move but they’re big animals when they get close. Luckily I finished burying the base and covering the holes around the time it got dark. In the next couple of days I finished screwing the plywood to the sides and painting it flat black.
I was happy with the way the sculpture turned out and was eager to see how the weather would affect the finish over the three months that it would be out on the farm. I really wanted it to disintegrate over time so that when you get up close it’s obvious that it’s made of cheap plywood and poorly finished. I made no effort to cover the seams or patch over screw holes. From a distance the piece appears to be solid and pristine but up close is a simple structure made of wood and screws.
In 2011 I decided to make a small scale model of this piece that is 6″x10″x10″ (including the base) and used the same techniques that I described in my last post about building the small scale model for 186646591.
Just to clarify, I consider models to be sculptures as well and use titles as a way of differentiating contexts. 1:4:9 (Small Scale Model) After is its title and in no way takes away from its appreciation as a sculpture.
Here is a small scale model that I finished in 2011 of the sculpture 186646591. It is a sculpture of a barcode. I made an earlier version in 2009 that had a much larger base which is why this one is version 2. This one has a small white “pedestal” base that I made for it and is 6″x10.5″x10.5″. I’ve used this type of pedestal base many times over the years, both large and small. I use it to frame my landscapes and to neaten their final appearance. I actually came up with the idea for 186646591 when I was in graduate school around 1999. I was interested in building a large outdoor sculpture in wood on the campus lawn that would be symbolic of the institution’s main goals. It would be symbolic, pop and minimalist all at the same time.
I started by figuring out how many “bars” I would need and buying 2 different thicknesses of balsa wood according to how many of each I would need. I worked out the proper dimension for the final piece and cut the balsa wood pieces down to the size I needed. I used small finishing nails that I then cut down to size and stuck them into the bottom of each piece of wood, leaving about a quarter of an inch sticking out of the bottom. I painted each piece of wood flat black with acrylic latex paint. I cut my base according to size and painted it green. When it dried I covered it with watered down Elmer’s glue and sprinkled foam railroading “grass” on it with a glass grated cheese shaker. This is a mixture that I made myself using 2 different colors of green. After it dried I turned it sideways and shook off the grass that didn’t glue to the base. I then measured out the spaces for each pin on the base with a pencil and drilled out each hole. I finished by pushing each balsa wood “bar” with a pin in it into each corresponding hole in the base and adjusted them so they were straight. In order to refurbish the model From version one to version two I first had to take off the original balsa wood pieces that make up the “bars” so that I could transfer them to a smaller piece of wood. I repeated the process without having to make the balsa wood pieces again.
I made a series of drawings of the sculpture as it will appear when it’s finished. I used the techniques from my three dimensional drawing class that I described in the I Was A Landscape In Your Dream post to accurately draw it in perspective and add shadows.
I’ve submitted the proposal to build and exhibit this sculpture many times but it has always been rejected. It may never get built. I guess no ones wants to see a giant sculpture of a bar code.
Journey Into the Realm of Reason is a 36″x84″ painting in 2 parts that I made in 2009. I designed it on the computer first, taking into account the composition and the colors that I wanted to use; I was interested in creating a composition that used perspective as a design element. I went to the art store and found some cheap enamel paints. I picked out a wide variety of colors that I liked, including black. After I had my colors I used Photoshop, which I used for my original design, to fill in the spaces with the colors that I just bought. I made both sides different and made sure that the same color wasn’t used in an adjacent space. Although I designed the 2 sides differently, I realized later, after I was done painting it, that I had instead used an earlier mock up of the painting which used the same side twice, only in reverse. Most of it is still this way except for a few spaces that have been altered. I tried to use all of the colors equally and because they were cheap enamels, I had to paint most of the colors with 5 or 6 layers of paint to make it solid. The title comes from Superstudio who used this title back in 1967. Here is what I wrote about it a couple of years ago:
Journey Into the Realm of Reason takes its name from one of Superstudio’s theoretical concepts for architectural investigation. As a reductive tool for learning, this “Pigrim’s Progress” aims to expose and then remove the prevalent but unnecessary properties of architectural design, leaving a guide for a stripped yet necessary aesthetic.
I decided sometime this summer that this design would be great as a stained glass project. It would need to be around the same size though to account for the black lines that connect the glass pieces. It would be large and I have no room to store it. Maybe one day. The painting has been hanging above my couch ever since I painted it. It fits perfectly.
Save the Last Dance for Me and These Flags Were Never Supposed to Fly are 2 paintings from this last summer. They are both based on photos that I took. The photo of the disco ball is from many years ago. I found it in a group of photos from a show that my band had played at a bar called the Boogaloo about 7 years ago and thought that it would make a good painting. The other one, These Flags Were Never Supposed to Fly, was a photo that I took in the Catskils the summer before. It was taken in a parking lot. Both of them are 24″x32″ and are oil on canvas. Save the Last Dance for Me was painted with very expensive Cadmium Red. I had originally used it in the series Ten Great Paintings About Ten Great Philosophies, but quickly decided that I wanted it to be used outside of that context. I was instead interested in using it as a token of sentiment and an indication of personal loss. I was also particularly drawn to painting the patterned reflections of the passing lights on the ceiling.
For These Flags Were Never Supposed to Fly I was interested in the differences between the flags as a foreground, abstract object and its relationship to the “realistic” background sky. The flags are “flat,” made only with the colors red, white and blue and the sky is painted with an ominously dark cloud appearing in the upper right hand corner. I also like that the string of flags second from the top runs in the opposite direction, so instead of being red, white and blue is blue, white and red. In the end, I thought that the composition was a little too “designed.” I tend to like my paintings “centered” to avoid the problem of designed compositions.
Today I framed 10 collages titled Future Living Project’s Good Design Is Good Living. I made them at the very end of 2011 and framed them with some cheap white frames that I found at IKEA. Not the best frames or the best mats (not archival) but I figured that it was better than nothing. The title is a little self mocking and the collages themselves were meant to mimic the look of radical architectural theorists of the 60’s and 70’s. Like Rem Koolhaas’ Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, The Strip, Project, Aerial Perspective and SuperStudio’s Continuos Monument, I was interested in presenting a discourse on the relationship of the object/architecture to the political and social subject. I wasn’t particularly interested in depicting an overall unifying system of meaning but rather in showing an assortment of contexts between individuals and their surrounding landscapes. For some of the collages I used computer print outs of my own paintings as visual elements. The Invention Of The Isotropic Surface uses a part of Journey Into the Realm of Reason and All Things Future Living Projects uses From Safety ToWhere…? and At the Gates of Dawn. For all of the collages I first found black and white landscapes that I scanned, cropped and scaled to size. I then printed them on quality drawing paper. I had an assortment of cut out images from old magazines and a book on Ralph Lauren that I used as source material. I arranged these elements according to how I thought they best completed the overall composition; I tried to keep the amount of cutouts that I used to a minimum for each collage. The individual titles were all meant to reflect what the final collages represented and were all made using a list of vocabulary words that I had from some of John Miller‘s writings; I kept the list in order to better help remember their definitions. Here are the titles, in order, for the five works below.
Future Living Project’s Good Design Is Good Living: Prologue- The Monument (Continual)
Future Living Project’s Good Design Is Good Living: The Invention Of The Isotropic Surface
Future Living Project’s Good Design Is Good Living: The Capital Is Yet To Be Seen
Future Living Project’s Good Design Is Good Living: This Life Is No Longer Yours
Future Living Project’s Good Design Is Good Living: Epilogue- Our History Is Not Yet Written
I finished reading Fahrenheit 451 today. I found an old copy at a book store about a year ago that came in a plastic bag. I love it when books are printed with an announcement on the front that says it’s now a movie. This one says “A major motion picture from universal-starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner Directed by Francois Truffaut.” Of course, I’ve seen the movie 2 or 3 times and realized that I had never read the book. The colors in the movie are fantastic and there are quite a few differences between the novel and the movie. I would encourage anyone to both read the novel and watch the movie, preferably back to back.
I’ve been wanting to make I Was A Landscape In Your Dream for a couple of years now. In 2010 I made a small chipboard version that is 1.75″x8.75″x8.75″. It is made of 25 layers. I started it by cutting 25 pieces of chipboard that were the same size and sketching out the top layer and then cutting it out with an angled mat cutter. I laid this over the second layer and drew a line as close as I could (within an eighth of an inch) to the layer above and cut that out. I did this until the shape was too small to cut. I made the piece thicker by adding uncut layers to the bottom.
I enjoyed making this because it reminded me of a project that I made in art school for my three dimensional drawing class. It was a very intense class and focused on developing rendering skills for drawing in perspective. We learned how to accurately draw objects in three dimensions, cast shadows properly, shade (using the proper pencil for even shading without using too much pressure), use a knife, and eventually, build objects. One of the assignments included making small square designs out of chipboard. The rule was that no layer could overlap another and the edges had to be clean (not cut with a dull knife). I think we had to make somewhere around 20 of them and use the best 16. It was a hellish class and the students in the class that semester would be in the studio late at night working on their assignments all week and weekends. It was worth it though since I learned how to draw imaginary 3 dimensional objects with shadows and learned how to use a cutting knife. For one assignment we had to design an object by drawing it first with shadows as it would look on a wall, separate the layers and cut them out of Masonite and then put it together, wood fill, sand and paint it without any layers showing. My friend Jim and I cheated though by using a type of paint that made it look like stone, which also conveniently covered up the mistakes. I got an A on the assignment but he banned the use of that paint the next year. I’m glad I still use these skills, including “cheating” sometimes. Now it’s called problem solving.
Anyway, I plan on making a larger version of I Was A Landscape In Your Dream out of wood that will be 11″x22″x22″. It will eventually sit under a glass table so it functions as both a sculpture and as a piece of furniture. I sort of dislike the idea of using art as a design element so I was interested in this cross-over in my own work, and think of it as being a little tongue in cheek. For 2 summers now I’ve planned on making it, needing the warm weather to do all of my cutting and sanding, but its cold again so I might not make it until next year. It’s a logistical problem since I need all of the wood to be exactly the same size so that the edges will create perfect sides in the end. I think I’ve figured out how to make a jig for this using some wood and a circular saw. I may paint it white in the end which will require wood filling and sanding.
I also made a series of drawings that I consider contour drawings of I Was A Landscape In Your Dream that preceded the original chipboard version. The idea for this was more conceptual, in a classic sense, meaning that I set up ground rules for how I would make them and then let their final outcome be dictated by the rules. So I decided on a size and then started by making as straight a line as I could across the top free hand. I then went back and made another line underneath the original line, trying to follow as closely as I could to the line above. I did this until one side reached the bottom of the page for one series. In another series I continued until the whole page was full. I did some in blue ball point pen and some with black ball point pen. Some I did horizontal and some I did vertical. Some I turned upside down. After 16 of them I stopped, feeling that I explored this idea as far as I could. I really like the look of blue ball point pen although it is not very archival and will fade in the sun very easily.
The title is taken from a song of the same title by the band Of Montreal.
Here’s a bad photo of the sun drawing that I’ve been working on. I started it about 2 or 3 months ago and got bored with it. I wanted to use the techniques (white chalk on black chalkboard paint) that I used for this for The Stars Are the Diamonds of the Poor. Sometimes I feel like it looks really good and on other days I give up in frustration, but I know I have to finish it. I worked on it a little today. The other constraint is that I can only work on it in the day since I can’t really see what I’m doing at night. Also I stopped working on it when I found a similar image in charcoal that Robert Longo had made. I also found some atomic bomb clouds in charcoal that he had done and felt a little relieved that I had made my bomb paintings first, not that it really matters. Here’s a good Robert Longo quote:
“I think I make art for brave eyes. I don’t want to make art that will pat you on the back and tell you everything is going to be okay. I want to make something that’s much more confronting.”
I gridded out a new 24″x32″ pixel painting last night with half inch squares. I have an idea for 2 new ones, one being an image of a family of mannequins used during the Trinity test (atomic) and the other is of an overflow FBI file room housed in a roller rink. I’m going to make the mannequin painting first and I’m not sure about the second one. I like the idea of bureaucracy as a subject matter and I like the image but the mannequins fit in with the ghost modernism theme. I knew that I wanted to use an image from the Trinity Test and really liked this image of a seemingly normal modern family. In actuality they’re about to be blown to smithereens to see how the atomic explosion affects them. I took some screen shots of the images as they would look pixilated. In the mannequin photograph I took out the exit sign on the top right because it didn’t look right after I pixilated it. I’m a little hesitant to work on more pixel paintings but I need to do at least one more for the show in The Hague. I’m thinking about excluding the painting of the Hindenburg from the show and only including the paintings that have a number of people in them.