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The Visible and Invisible Small Scale Sculpture

I finished the small scale sculpture The Visible and Invisible which was based on a gouache painting that I did earlier this year that deals with optical illusions. Like Valis and Tone Float before it, I painted the sides different shades of gray from Golden #5 to Golden #2. I used Golden #6 on the outer edges, thinking that if I ever exhibit the series I could put them on a surface painted with the same shade of grey thus making the edges invisible. The photo that I took shows the piece on my dining room table and it’s easy to see how horribly I painted it. I find that I’ve become less interested in pristine surfaces and was looking for something that was different from the series A Theory of Forms and Ideas in which the sculptures have a smooth finish to them. In the final photo the surface will most likely look less textured because the diffused light will eliminate the surfaces uneven shadows.

Last but not least is The Pleasure of Deceit.

The Visible and Invisible SSS

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A Theory of Progress Small Scale Sculpture

Here is another small scale sculpture that I finished a couple of weeks ago from the A Theory of Progress series that explores pure design and the homogeneous surface. The sculpture is meant to swivel in the center, allowing for the sculpture to be displayed in 2 different ways. I made it this way because I couldn’t decide which design I liked better so I thought it would be more interesting to incorporate both into the final piece. The actual sculpture would probably be made using 1″x4″‘s but, like most of my models, it will most likely never be made. 2015-11-18 07.51.54 2015-11-18 07.52.27

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New Website

Last week I redesigned the website so that all of the artwork was categorized according to the dates that they were completed. I did this because I thought that splitting up the work according to their project names was too confusing for people to understand. The previous categorization method made sense to me but I started to feel like it was a hindrance in trying to get people interested in my work. Maybe less explanation would be less confusing. I also only have artwork going back 10 years on there and removed all of the “lesser” works in order to create a “greatest hits” website.

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Stroudsburg Middle School

I was educated in the Stroudsburg school district in eastern Pennsylvania. Nothing very exciting about it. Just a bunch of rednecks, jocks and geeks growing up together year after year in the same social circles. From 5th to 8th grade I was sent to middle school which turned out to be a large round school with no walls, part of an experimental “open plan” design that used blackboards, coat racks and tote trays (all on wheels) to separate classrooms.  It felt like you were going to the future!

It was built in 1974 but we used to call it the rusty tin can because by the time we got there the metal that they had used for the outside was all rusted. The first thing that you noticed when you walked in was that there were primary colors everywhere. We were split into 2 halves (mountain and lake) so you never knew who half of the kids were unless you went to elementary school with them. By 8th grade we had been shuffled many times and were now split into A and B sections. We used to have classes like “Exploratory”, “PE Enrichment” (Physical Education) and “Unified Arts” where we learned how to sew, cook and make things out of plastic and wood. There were no windows but only thin glass doors on the outside of the building that we would sometimes go out of to play or have classes; I would often find myself staring out those doors dreaming about the outside. We had no cafeteria, our own pool and small round cubicles for private study.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being so young and walking into an environment like that but like my Penn Hills Resort post I think that it has something to do with my fascination with 1970’s futurism and failed utopias. They eventually built walls in the school, destroying the very principals of the original design, and repainted the outside to get rid of the rust color.

Here are some photos from an article in the Pocono Record about the school. I don’t know any of the people in the photographs but you can see the school looming in the background. Check out the kids all hanging out on the hill in the second photo and how much the school looks like a Richard Serra sculpture in the third. The last photo shows the inside of the school at a much later date; no primary colors but you get the idea.

bilde-1bilde bilde-2PH-903009999.jpg&Maxw=583 bilde-3



I remember going to use computers there


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A Theory of Progress, 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair and Penn Hills Resort

My friend Glen contacted me a couple of weeks ago and told me that he had been watching a documentary on the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair and had noticed that the lights from the fair were the same as the lights that I used for the basis for A History of Progress sculpture; Glen and I had first seen the lights at a small hotel in the Catskills while on a snowboarding trip. I always enjoy looking at World’s Fair memorabilia and architecture and after doing some more research I found out some interesting things about the luminaries. They were originally built by Westinghouse and they came in 76 modular configurations, from only four cubes per post to as many as 16, in vibrant colors like red, yellow, violet, coral, olive green, and chartreuse, according to renderings and fair brochures. Each translucent 16″ panel fit into a metal framework, and below them was a sound speaker.

It seems that the lights were sold off after the fair ended and it turns out that some of them ended up at a small honeymoon resort in the Poconos where I grew up called Penn Hills Resort. The resort was on a back road on the way up to Pocono Mountain and in the 1980’s was a decrepit reminder of 1970’s sleaze and romance. It reeked of sadness as if love had over the decades become kitsch. One time a friend and I even went to see another friend of ours do some bad stand up comedy with 2 or 3 hopeful honeymoon couples. Strangely enough I remember how both odd and nostalgic the feeling was of the place as if the promise of a better future had died and that the slowly decaying faux futuristic architectural was somehow symbolic of the failure of the Poconos. It’s doubly strange that I don’t specifically remember those lights but that 25 years later those same faded sun bleached lights, in a different place, would effect me in the same way and I would decide to make a sculpture from it. They say our mind never really forgets what it sees.

Below is a graph showing all of the different configurations of the lights, a photo of the lights at night at the World’s Fair, a photo of them de-installed, a photo of what they look like at Penn Hills and finally the small model that I made.

 sheet-20-original-graphicBN-BK213_NYLAMP_G_20140206155029BN-BK215_NYLAMP_G_20140206155030IMG_8747-copy-21A Theory of Progress Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee abd Future Living Projects


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A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle: Crusade Against Communism, Sock Then Ask (Basil Gordon Being Beaten For Refusing To Tell Fellow Auto Workers Whether He Was A Communist, July 1950

I finished Crusade Against Communism, Sock Then Ask (Basil Gordon Being Beaten For Refusing To Tell Fellow Auto Workers Whether He Was A Communist, July 1950 for a show I’m in called Pixelated. The show is in a space called Here Art in New York City which is mostly a theater space and is the same place that I exhibited The Shadow back in 2003. For the show I’m exhibiting all 6 A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle paintings as well as Wavy Davy from Epicenter City. I also decided to make an 11″x17″ poster for the show that uses an eye chart that spells Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I made an edition of  50 for people to take and 4 artists proofs. The artists proofs are on heavier paper and are printed using a color copier and the edition is printed on cheap paper on a black and white copier.

Below is the last painting I finished, the poster and a photo of the posters sitting on my desk after editioning them.

Crusade Against CommunismAAPR Eye Chart PosterAAPR Posters on Desk

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A Theory of Progress Table in Progress

So I finished sanding the A Theory of Progress Table about a month ago and have been painting it sporadically ever since. The process is tedious and requires each of the side slats to be painted twice and the top slats to be painted between 4 and 8 times in order to get them solid. The top slats also have a lot of imperfections in them and I found it necessary to paint the sides where they meet which added a lot of extra time. If I was to do it all over again I would have made the top slats removable so that I could take them off and paint them separately. I’m trying to decide if I only want to paint the long parts of the slats or if I want to paint everything. I think it would look better with everything painted but it’ll take a lot more time to finish.

I’m going to stop working on it for a while because I want to work on some other projects and I’m not in a hurry to finish it anyway. Here’s a photo of it part way finished.

In Progress

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Arthur C. Danto: Hegel’s End-of Art Theses

Here’s another good piece of writing on the end of art written by Arthur C. Danto. This one is mostly about Hegel‘s end of art theses that appears at the beginning of the published version of his Lectures on Aesthetics and cover’s Danto’s historical explanation of the shift in the relationship between philosophy and art.


Arthur C. Danto

“Art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place.” 1 This is the most forceful of Hegel’s many formulations of what we may designate his End-of-Art Thesis, and it appears very near the beginning of the published version of his Lectures on Aesthetics – his Vorlesungen uber die Aesthetic – delivered for the fourth and final time in the Winter Semester of 1828, at the University of Berlin. The thesis is so intricately woven into the texture of Hegel’s text, however, that it must be regarded as a central and indeed a structural feature of his philosophy of art, rather than a critical obiter dictum regarding the art of his time. And it as much addresses what other philosophers have said about art, as art itself.

Of course art will go on being made. There will be art after the end of art. “Art can be used as a fleeting play, affording recreation and entertainment, decorating our surroundings, giving pleasantness to the externals of our life, and making other objects stand out by artistic adornment. ” 2 So understood, art will play any number of roles in what Hegel terms the objective spirit of a society – the system of meanings and practices that constitute the form of life its members live. But Hegel was not speaking of art in terms of objective spirit when he advanced the End-of-Art Thesis. “The universal need for art…is man’s rational need to lift the inner and outer world into his spiritual consciousness as an object in which he recognizes again his own self.” 3 That is art’s “highest vocation,” to which alone the End-of-Art Thesis has application. So the truth of

1the thesis was consistent with art, and even great art, continuing to be made. In the Epilogue to his lecture, Origins of the Work of Art (1935-36), Martin Heidegger wrote:

The judgment that Hegel passes in these statements cannot be evaded by pointing out that since Hegel’s lectures…we have seen many new art works and art movements arise. Hegel did not mean to deny this possibility. The question, however, remains: is art still an essential and necessary way in which truth that is decisive for our historical existence happens, or is art no longer of this character? 4

Heidegger implied, wrongly, that despite a century of artistic revolution, it was still too early to say whether the End-of-Art Thesis were true. It is wrong because the Thesis makes no prediction as to the future of art. It is not primarily a thesis about art so much as a thesis regarding our relationship to it. It is a thesis about human beings, whose progress in self-understanding means that we can never again relate to art as our predecessors did when it “afforded that satisfaction of spiritual needs which earlier ages and nations sought in it.” 5 For us, art is merely an object of intellectual consideration – “and that not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is.”6

Indeed, aesthetic preoccupation with taste, as in Hume or in Kant, testifies precisely to the fact that the older relation to art has been superceded. “Taste is directed only to the external surface on which feelings play,” he wrote. “So-called ‘good taste’ takes fright at all the deeper effects of art and is silent when externalities and incidentals vanish.”7 Art is now an object for study and philosophical analysis, but it no longer satisfies, by itself alone, the deepest needs of the spirit. We have outgrown art, so to speak.

If, then, there were going again to be a moment when art regained its earlier purpose, that would not be because of the kind of art that came about, but because we ourselves had reverted to an earlier condition. If that were to happen, we would not be able to say of the art in question that it was “an essential and necessary way in which truth that is decisive for our historical existence happens.” It is the end of art precisely when that question can be entertained. The moment it is entertained, the answer is clear. When art really does express the kind of truth in question, no one, in the spirit of cultural or artistic criticism, can wonder whether it does. We cannot undo the history of mind, which has brought us to our present situation.

I use the word Mind where Hegel employed the word Spirit, or Geist. “Spirit” is not a word to which the spirit of the English language is especially hospitable, corrupted as the word has been by occult preoccupations and New Age metaphysics. Broadly speaking, the defining activity of Spirit is thinking. In this, Hegel was very close to Descartes, who attempted to prove that he was, essentially and necessarily, a thinking being – an ens cogitans. Where Hegel differed from his predecessors lay in the fact that he saw thinking as having a history. The various historical phases of art are phases of thought expressed as art. Art is “born of the spirit and born again”8 he wrote: Aus dem Geiste geborene und wiedergeborene. Hence art is through and through a product of thought, though limited by the fact that it must express its thoughts by sensuous means. The End-of-Art Thesis proclaims our liberation from having to find sensuous equivalents for the content of thought. Thinking has risen above and beyond what art is capable of. Art belongs to a less evolved mode of thinking than what the mind, not only ideally but actually, is capable of – and we find this higher capability only in philosophy.

Hegel distinguishes three modes of thought, which he terms subjective, objective, and absolute spirit. Subjective spirit corresponds to Descartes’s cogito – to cognitive operations of the mind. Objective Spirit, by contrast, is thought objectified, as it is, for example in works of art, or in our political institutions, moral codes, or forms of family life. It is from the perspective of objective spirit that any institutional theory of art is credible. The subjective mind of the artist is constrained by the objective structures of the art world. Art becomes a matter of Absolute Spirit when, whatever other roles it may play, it offers, like religion and philosophy, “one way of bringing to our minds and expressing the Divine, the deepest interests of mankind and the most comprehensive truths of the spirit.” 9 It is as a superceded moment of Absolute Spirit that art has come to an end. Art will no doubt “intersperse with its pleasing forms everything from the war- paint of savages to the splendor of temples with all their riches of adornment.” 10 But trammeled by its dependence upon sensuous means, art is incapable of showing spirit to itself as spirit. Religion clearly failed to register this limitation, since it recruited art as a way of giving its ideas vivid and graphic images:

The advent of art, in a religion still in the bonds of sensuous externality, shows that such religion is on the decline. At the very time it seems to give religion the supreme glorification, expression, and brilliancy, it has lifted religion over its limitation…Beautiful art, from its side, has thus performed the same service as philosophy: it has purified the spirit from its thralldom.” 11

But philosophy has lifted thought over art’s ineradicable limitation. “Art no longer affords that satisfaction of spiritual needs which earlier ages and nations sought in it, and found in it alone, a satisfaction that, at least on the part of religion, was most intimately linked with art.” 12 Alas, “The beautiful days of Greek art, like the golden age of the later Middle Ages, are gone.” 13

The spirit of our world today, or more particularly, of our religion and the development of our reason, appears as beyond the stage at which art is the supreme mode of our knowledge of the Absolute. The peculiar nature of artistic production and of works of art no longer fills our highest need. We have got beyond venerating works of art as divine and worshiping them, The impression they make is of a more reflective kind, and what they arouse in us needs a higher touchstone and a different test. Thought and reflection have spread their wings above fine arts. 14

It must be clear from this barest of outlines that the End-of-Art-Thesis is systematically connected with the whole of Hegel’s thought, and far more loosely connected with the actual history of art than may have been evident to his critics. He saw Art as, so to speak, a staging area in the epic of self-knowledge. Having served that transitional but momentous service, art may now lapse back into the entertainment and ornamentation so important in the enhancement of human life. The End-of-Art thesis is the defining idea of Hegel’s philosophy of art, and his philosophy of art is the heart of his entire philosophical system. He could not have based his philosophy of art on an empirical study of artistic practices, as an art historian or a psychologist of art. For these empirical studies yield no clue to art as a phase of Absolute Spirit. There are the deepest differences, then, between the End-of-Art Thesis in Hegel, and in its various formulations in the late twentieth century 15, where it really does serve as a summary judgment on the present condition of art. It is not, in general, today enunciated as corollary to a great philosophical system like Hegel’s, which brings the whole of spirit into a tremendous whole. Philosophy in the late twentieth century would hardly be regarded as affording “that satisfaction of needs which earlier nations sought in it.” Its role in human thought is a question mark, and its recent history an agony of self-critique. More than this, the intellectual context in which the end of art is currently addressed is very different from that against which Hegel’s thesis must be viewed.

As may have been sensed from Hegel’s constant exaltation of philosophy over art, his system of aesthetics had a polemical edge To get a clearer sense of this, let us turn to the last section of Part One of Lectures on Aesthetics – “The End of the Romantic Form of Art” where the term Romantic takes on a double meaning. It refers to one of the great stages through which art has passed, culminating perhaps in the Renaissance. This is “romantic” in the sense of one of the synonyms for certain narratives – “romances.” But it also refers to a set of philosophical attitudes that defined German romantic poetry and inflamed German poets. Romanticism held that art is superior to philosophy. The End-of- art Thesis translates into the end of Romanticism in this sense. It does so because Romanticism’s claim to superiority rested on the fact that, unlike mere philosophy, art presents its ideas in sensuous form. This was the defining position of German Romanticism, which exalted art and artists in the larger scheme of life. “It was proposed to hold that in art the real religion, the truth, and the Absolute was to be found and that art towered above philosophy because it was not abstract but contained the Idea in the real world as well and presented it there to concrete contemplation and feeling.” 16 Any of Hegel’s auditors in 1828 would have heard, through these words, a characteristic thought of Friedrich Schelling, in which he makes an invidious comparison between philosophy and art.

Philosophy as philosophy can never be universally valid. Absolute objectivity is given to art alone. If art is deprived of objectivity, one may say, it ceases to be what it is and becomes philosophy; give objectivity to philosophy and it becomes art. Philosophy to be sure reaches the highest level, but it brings only, as it were, a fragment of man to this point. Art brings the whole man, as he is, to that point, namely to a knowledge of the highest of all, and n this rests the eternal difference and the miracle of art.17

Something of this sort, Hegel wants to say, may very well have been true at certain stages in the history of Spirit. Indeed what Schelling may have been describing would be precisely art “in its highest vocation.” But in the present moment of art – Hegel’s moment – the relationship between philosophy and art is precisely opposite to Schelling’s view.

Each of Hegel’s three stages of art – symbolic, classical, and romantic – involve different kinds of relationship between the vehicle of art and its meaning. It is symbolic when there is, between the two, only an “affinity.” It is classical when there is instead an identity. It is Romantic when some reference to spiritual states is the best explanation of why the art appears as it does. The end of art means the liberation of the artist from any such set of constraints “Bondage to a particular subject matter and a mode of portrayal… are for artists today something past, and art has therefore has become a free instrument which the artist can wield…in relationship to any material whatever.”18

It is astonishing that Hegel should see the end of art in what is in effect a total pluralism, though he could not have foreseen the kind of pluralism that defines the artworld today. “Today,” he writes, “there is no material that stands in and for itself above this relativity.” Any material, shaped in any way, can be art “only if it does not contradict the formal law of being simply beautiful and capable of artistic treatment.” 19 It would astonish Hegel that beauty is no longer regarded as a “formal law of art.” But otherwise the deep pluralism of art was already something he understood. “Every form and every material is now at the service and command of the artist whose talent and genius is explicitly freed from the earlier limitation to one particular art-form.” 20 The artist, to paraphrase a stunning thought of Marx and Engels, can do symbolic art in the morning, classical art at noon, romantic art in the afternoon – and the philosophy of art in the evening. The whole internal logic of the history of art culminates in an absolute artistic freedom.

But artists are no longer, in Hegel’s philosophy, the great cultural heroes through reference to whom Romanticism defined itself. Their era in that capacity is irrevocably over. So the End-of-Art must be understood in terms of two opposed systems of German thought in the early nineteenth century, each of which deals in different ways with art and intellect, and with the role of each in terms of human understanding. Hegel is announcing a new age of reason, in which thought is the substance of spirit.

The sole thought which philosophy brings to the treatment of history is the simple concept of Reason: that Reason is the law of the world and that therefore, in world history, things have come about rationally. 21 Historically, however, the Romanticist conception of art and of the artistic genius proved irresistible, long after Hegel’s philosophy of art withered into a dusty topic for historians of philosophy. The Romanticist vision of art flourished in Wagner and in Nietzsche, in the Futurists and the Abstract Expressionists. It continued to exert a powerful attraction on Adorno and the Frankfort School. Only late in the twentieth century, through the realization in artistic practice of the freedom Hegel foresaw, is his philosophy of art once again at the center of aesthetic discussion.

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New Studio

So I made my move to New Paltz which is about a an hour and a half north of New York City. We rented a house for a year which comes with a garden house that I’ve cleaned out to use as my new studio. The space is around 200 square feet and is made entirely of concrete. The nice thing about the studio is that it has a door and a glass window that look out over a beautiful lawn and a garden that grows humongous sized sun flowers. It didn’t take me long to visualize how i wanted to use the space and part of my initial cleaning included moving some cabinets that were being used as storage inside to use as a workbench and to free up some space in the studio. There’s another room farther inside where I can keep my tools and have a work bench so I don’t need to clutter up my workspace with extra things.  Another nice thing about the space is being able to use the outside space so I don’t have to worry about cutting wood inside and making everything dusty;this might be tricky in the wintertime but its great for now. I plan on putting up three 4’x8′ sheets of hardwood plywood so that I have a surface to hang on but the wood is expensive and I have to buy 3/4″ unfortunately because Loews doesn’t sell 1/2″ thick smooth plywood. I’d like a cheaper alternative but I’m afraid that 1/4″ would be too thin and would ripple on the uneven wall behind it, making photography a nightmare. Another great thing about the studio is that there’s a Loews hardware store a block from the house which means no more long trips to get materials. My worktable in the studio is now a cool desk from the UN and a nifty adjustable lamp also from the UN ( thanks Ben Knight!) Below are some pictures of the studio after I cleaned it up and a picture of the back of the house with the door to my studio. Oh and we have a dog for a year named Pup Pup. There he is running in the garden!StudioStudio 2photo-4PupPup

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In Progress

Today I re-stretched the 4 pixel paintings that I took to The Hague and then varnished 3 of the pixel paintings and Nothing Ever Stays the Same and Nothing’s Explained. I decided a while ago that I needed to start varnishing my paintings to keep the sun from affecting the colors and to keep them from getting dirty in my studio. Unfortunately varnishing comes with its own risks and ultimately changes the surface of the painting but this can’t be helped. I like to use Golden Matte varnish with UV protection in it (UVLS). It’s important to make sure that the surface of the painting is clean before you start otherwise dirt, dust and hair will get stuck in the varnish and dry there. I allow a certain amount of surface imperfection but I make an effort to pull out anything that I think will be a noticeable distraction.

I also started working on these small gouache paintings. They were made using cheap paper that I bought in China many years ago that school children use. I wanted to get away from feeling like I needed to make pristine objects and instead wanted to use a water based medium that would ultimately wrinkle and semi-destroy the flatness of the paper. I want them to exist as tactile objects. The compositions are taken from old corporate logos that I cropped into abstract shapes. Again, I’m not sure how these pieces fit into a larger context within my work; I’m only interested in pursuing my interests intuitively without any concern for how it might or might not benefit my less-than-stellar art career.

Scan 1Scan 2

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