Here is a photograph of the last A Theory of Progress sculpture. It was made so that it could be presented in 3 different positions.
Category Archives: Future Living Projects
Here is what I wrote for the show at Way Out Gallery.
- 1. of or designating a verb tense or form indicating that the action or state expressed by the verb will be completed by or extended up to a time in the future.
- the future perfect tense
- a form in this sense
These works were gleaned from two separate but related projects that I’ve been working on for the past 8 years: Minimalism Elite, which re-imagines the past, and Future Living Projects, which imagines the future. They are similar aesthetically but differ in context. Minimalism Elite began as a collection of work that looked for inspiration from the past, at a short period of time after the prevailing trends of Modernism but before the post-capitalist strategies of conceptualist art, driven by collectors eager to consume and invest in a new growing corporate art market. Future Living Projects started as an exploration of art that existed somewhere between design and architecture, a theoretical construct to organize potential possibilities for both a utopian and dystopian future.
The sculpture series A Theory of Forms and Ideas takes its name from Plato’s concept of idealized form which postulates the existence of a “reality” inhabited by the ideal or archetypal form of all things and concepts. The sculptures posit themselves as anti-monuments, an articulated set of organized possibilities that inherently create an awareness of scale that shifts the viewer’s relationship away from traditional, monumentalized work, toward a position of enhanced intimacy. Their form is perceived in one instantaneous and inseparable way as mere simple objects concealing the planning and craft needed to complete the final product.
The painting The Pleasure of Deceit offers a mental construction of an insidious fantasy, a projected form that intuits the cynicism of human nature while Journey Into the Realm of Reason, Burning From the Inside and From Safety To Where…? expose the ambiguity of space–between knowledge and fiction and disorder and the Cartesian grid–distorted by unending vanishing landscapes. Perspective is used as a marker of spatial infinity, a visual reminder of the simultaneous existence of both a theoretical probability and physical impossibility, the antinomic dialectic between an optical glitch and mathematical certainty.
The Architect’s Tomb functions somewhere between sculpture and furniture and hints at the possibility of an intrinsically temporal dimension, a space that is internal and external in which nothingness eternally asserts itself as a permanent unknown. Light becomes a hypothesis of suspended physical transformation where mass and energy collapse, imposing a new, more solid and immanent objectuality, an entombed immobility of a future that is both present and past.
Yesterday I installed at a gallery up in Rensselaerville called Way Out Gallery that will be showing from September 27th to October 12th. The curators came to see my studio about 8 months ago and they liked the A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures and the gouache paintings and some of the other minimal work that I had been working on so I decided to center the show exclusively on a minimalist aesthetic, combining work from both Future Living Projects and Minimalism Elite. I knew right away that I wanted to show The Architect’s Tomb, Journey Into the Realm of Reason and From Safety To Where…? since I had never shown them before and was excited for the opportunity to exhibit them together. I decided that I wanted to remake Burning From the Inside but make it the same size as From Safety To Where…? and using the same gouache and acrylic latex technique. I destroyed the first Burning From the Inside when I moved from my studio in Brooklyn because of dark spots that showed up after I varnished it which for me ruined the flatness of the surface. I also wasn’t happy with the hard edges or the plastic feeling that you get from acrylics.
I decided also to make another new painting for the back wall that is approximately 3’x4′ called The Pleasure of Deceit. The image comes from a section of one of the isometric perspective pen drawings from A Theory of Forms and Ideas series. I was originally interested in making a painting that used the same distortion of optical perspective as the Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled Pen and Ink Drawings but settled on an image that, although I thought only partly created the illusion I was looking for, was nonetheless more interesting. I was originally going to make it black and white so that the only color in the show would be Journey Into the Realm of Reason but I decided that wanted it to have a specific color combination and to sacrifice the original concept for the show in favor of making a better and more interesting painting. I actually haven’t finished the painting yet and I plan on finishing it and installing it right before the opening.
I’ve been working on some statements for each piece and I’m calling the show Future Perfect which means “of or designating a verb tense or form indicating that the action or state expressed by the verb will be completed by or extended up to a time in the future.” I’ve been having a difficult time creating a context for putting Minimalism Elite and Future Living Project’s together so I think that it will be easier to just say that they’re from 2 separate but aesthetically related projects. Burning from the Inside and From Safety To Where…? actually exist in both projects.
Below are some photos of the show at the end of the installation. I framed all of the A Theory of Forms and Ideas Gouache Paintings individually and installed them so that 16 were on one wall and 8 were on the other. Ten of the A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures were installed in the middle of the gallery on 3 pedestals. I also decided early on to not install anything above The Architect’s Tomb to give it space and the curators snuck in one panel from the ICB series which I brought as an alternate for one of the walls. It turns out that it yellowed and the blue pen has started to fade but we hung it up anyway. At the bottom is a computer simulation of what The Pleasure of Deceit will look like.
Here’s a small sculpture that I made last week called Elevator Pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30 second short summary of who you are and what you do that you’re supposed to be able to rattle off to someone at a moments notice in order to impress and elicit interest. The title actually comes from a misunderstanding; I heard a friend mention it in a podcast and for a brief second thought he meant the sound frequency of an elevator. This particular sculpture is a 4″x4″ piece of balsa wood that I painted with Future Living Project white. I painted the underside a bright orange and elevated it with a small spacer to create the illusion of a glowing light underneath. It’s actually hard to see and I originally wanted the space underneath to be smaller but the effect didn’t work so I raised it a little bit. This particular image has been altered to enhance the orange glow. I did this by isolating the shadow underneath, shifting it’s color to orange, saturating it and then adding it back into the original image. I usually photograph my sculptures on a grey backdrop but for this one I had to use white paper in order to come anywhere close to achieving an orange glow.
ICB is a series of work that I made in 2009 that I never wrote about or exhibited. The initial drawings were originally created using a computer that had an old drawings program on it;the lines were randomly drawn across the screen and the computer program, through a preset, would either adhere to the grid or ignore it, creating a random pattern in the end. I experimented with different results and made 4 of these (Untitled #1,#4,#5 and Battleship) which I printed out and saved thinking that I would like to do something with them in the future. One of these initial drawings was the basis for the painting ICB (Battleship) which was made using white acrylic latex and blue pen on canvas. I used joint compound on the surface of the canvas before painting it to create a smooth surface. This turned out to be a mistake because one of my cats walked across it and made crackly footprints on it which destroyed the surface. I made this painting again in 2011 but this time used blue gouache to make the lines and also used 2 different whites for the background. In 2009 I also decided to finish the series so I set out to try and reproduce similar results to what I had done in 2000. This was harder than I thought since computer programs had become more advanced over time. This meant that the computer was less likely to follow the grid so I had to redo many of them several times to get the results that I wanted. After I had 8 of them I decided that I had enough so I reproduced them on paper using a blue felt tip marker. Then I decided that I wanted to make them on panels so I bought eight 16″ wood panels. I sanded each one and used white spray paint to paint them. I used the same blue felt tip markers on these that I used for the other drawings and when I was done sprayed them with UVLS Matte Varnish to keep the sun from fading them.
I never showed this series anywhere. I had 2 of the panels hanging up in my studio and the sunlight faded them so they were destroyed. I gave a couple of them away. I liked the idea of this series and the idea of making art through glitches on a computer even though I forced some of the later results. This was also the first time that I ever made work directly on wood panels and I thought that it was successful for a first try. I was hoping that the final results would be quite and elegant but at the same time I wasn’t sure how abstraction fit in with the rest of my work and I found it difficult to try and promote;I didn’t have any other work that was like it. It eventually found a home with the Future Living Projects.
The title comes from a New Order song on the album Movement. The initials are rumored to mean Ian Curtis Buried but I didn’t know that at the time of making the painting or the drawings. Here are 2 composite shots, one of the drawings on paper and the other of the drawings on panels. Below that is the painting ICB (Battleship) which I plan on destroying since I don’t think that it was very successful as a painting.
Associated Artists for Propaganda Research: Select Drawings from a History of Space and Communication (1926- )
In 2001 around the same time that I was working on the models I started a new series of pen drawings called Select Drawings from a History of Space and Communication (1926- ). This is what I wrote about it on the website:
The basis of the project was to chronicle the development of the space race and to track the conglomeration and control of future mass medias.
The first series were of communication satellites but in 2002 I started the same series again but with pencil this time. I had a bunch of space exploration books to use as references and spent a lot of time researching what kind of imagery I wanted to re=represent; I picked images that appealed to my imagination and that I thought would be interesting to copy. These included images from important historical events, prototype spacesuits and even an image from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like the models, I wasn’t interested in making great drawings or manipulating them to make them more creative or artistic but rather wanted to make drawings that were obvious copies from old photographs. I approached the copying of images as a legitimate type of creativity. To me it is an honest approach to making art that removes the creativity from the “act of making” and places it within the “idea” of art, the ability for the artist to be creative through the very act of selection and the attempts at creativity. Art doesn’t need to be about the ability to draw or the creativity of the artists hand but can rather be about the idea of the act, the re-contextualizing of the imagery for artistic purposes. I knew that copying photographs was as an artistic taboo, an amateur activity that would be difficult to pull off as respectable art but I saw this approach as one of many approaches to creativity that I wanted to explore in my art. I thought that by putting it under the Associated Artists for propaganda Research and giving it an impressive project title that people would look past the simplicity of the drawings and not just see them as poorly copied art objects but rather for the ideas that they represent and their relationship to a larger context. Here’s a quote from Douglas Crimp’s book On the Museum’s Ruins about reproduction in contemporary art:
through reproductive technology, postmodernist art dispenses with the aura. The fiction of the creating subject gives way to the frank confiscation, quotation, excerptation, accumulation, and repetition of already existing images. Notions of originality, authenticity, and presence, essential to the ordered discourse of the museum, are undermined.
I imagined the drawings as part of a larger installation that would include small scale models like Saturn V;I probably would have included some painting and large drawings as well. I wanted to frame them and create an installation that looked like a science exhibition that used a broad mixture of objects and paraphernalia.
I used these drawings for many proposals but they landed flat in the end. I think it was hard to imagine the final project and the drawings were lame to begin with. Overall, I think the idea was good and that the final installation could have been impressive but using these drawings as a representation of any kind of artistic creativity was probably a bad idea. The project ended up being used under other project names like Future Living Projects and The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. For the most part The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard took over most of my “lameness” as creative art ideas that I wanted to do since that project became mostly about someone who made “bad” art. It wasn’t long after this that I started using more “impressive” model based landscape proposals to better represent the AAPR. A couple other projects came out of this one though including Sursum Corda (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) which is a large pixel drawing of the surface of the moon and a satellite dish and The Tower which is a large painting of a communication tower.
Below are some of the early ink drawings and a composite of some of the 2002 pencil drawings.
Here’s a shot of me in the studio reading a book about Rembrandt. Actually it’s a recreation of an earlier shot that I took of myself in the studio that I wanted to use for the Links page of my new website. I decided that I wanted to use the paintings that are behind me as Links to the individual websites that they belong to. To the top left are 2 paintings from Future Living Projects. The top one is From Dawn To Dusk and the bottom one is At the Gates of Dawn. As I was hanging them I remembered that I had originally planned to make identically sized horizontal paintings that would be stacked on top of each other. This included (OL) and NewDawn Fades which didn’t get made until many years later but this is where the format originated. To the right of me is A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle which I just finished and belongs to the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. To my left, underneath the 2 Future Living Projects paintings are 3 paintings that my grandfather made that I painted UFO’s onto. I have yet to blog about these and they belong to The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. Here is the photo.
I finished a new website today. Actually it’s a re-working of brianhigbee.net. I’ve been working on it for almost a week. I decided that I wanted to minimize the amount of information on it and reduce the number of art pieces that I show. Most of the small scale models didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate, but I felt that they just didn’t seem that impressive as stand alone pieces. I’d love to do a show one day of all small scale models of my larger work. One of the things that I struggled with was how to break down the categories and , in the end, I decided to break it down according to “organizations” and not by medium (ie painting, sculpture). I felt that using project titles represented what I was trying to achieve artistically better than if I broke it down by what materials I used. Here is what I wrote:
As an artist I’m interested in the creation and development of ideological organizations that act as conceptual contexts for projects and large bodies of work. I developed these projects to act as a network of interconnected ideas that address the complexities of multiplicity as a basis for the re-contextualization of contemporary aesthetics. In this way, I am interested in creating a network of visual languages and open meaning systems that both cross-purpose and cross-reference several ideas and objects simultaneously. Each of these projects generally use a wide range of materials and mediums such as small-scale models, drawing, painting, sculpture, text and computer generated images so instead of making categories that separate my work by the types of materials that I use, I restructured it into categories according to project titles.
Here are the 4 categories and explanations about each one.
Brian Higbee shows most of my paintings that use personal experiences of loss and disappointment as a basis for meditation and reflection. These experiences manifest themselves in my paintings as both the imagined landscape/object and within the titles, as fragments of conversation.
Associated Artists for Propaganda Research has its roots in politics and disinformation. It is political by nature and explores themes of propaganda, political dominance, corporate control and U.S. military prowess. It offers a critique of the political and economical disinformation distributed by those intent on protecting invested interests.
The Future Living Projects is a concept revolving around architectural components and was created as a fictional yet defunct architectural firm from the 1970’s that re-imagines the possibilities of art and architecture in the distant future. In the future the struggle for space will be the struggle for survival.
The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard creates a fictional biography about an artist living in the late 70’s and 80’s. He’s a Vietnam vet who’s art explores notions of male masculinity and teenage fantasy, U.F.O.’s and space travel and ultimately, the horrors of the Vietnam War. He is a culmination of myself, my father and my grandfather.
Today I made a small scale model of A Theory of Progress based on the gouache and pencil drawing that I made the other day. I decided to make it using half inch square pieces of wood that I found at the art store instead of out of mat board. I started by cutting the longest strip first at 2 and a half inches representing 5 squares. I lightly sanded the edges of my cuts and picked the best sides to leave exposed. I marked off my squares and labeled them according to the painting and painted them with the same gouache colors that I had previously used. When I was done with painting the squares I used a black felt tipped marker and a straight edge to make all of the black lines at the edges. Luckily I realized before I got too far that I shouldn’t put lines across the top except for the edges that are going to be butted up against another set of squares. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about the black lines not matching up and when it was all put together I could put my black lines across all of them at the same time. I did the same thing for both strips of 4 squares and again for both of the strips of 2 squares. I glued them together, clamped them and let them dry. In an hour I took off the clamps and finished by making my black lines across the top with a ruler.
Also I decided on the title this morning which comes from a category of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcade’s Project which focuses on a critique of the nineteenth century parisian bourgeois as experienced through the centers of consumerism, the arcade. This piece reminds me a little of some of Liam Gillick’s colorful plexi-glass pieces.
Here’s a shot of it in my studio on a home-made pedestal and another that will probably be the final photograph for this piece.