Tag Archives: 2010

Pure City/ Sigma 6 (Small Scale Model 1,2 and 3)

In 2008 I started working on another cityscape using old computer parts called Pure City/ Sigma 6. I wanted to develop a more comprehensive floor sculpture for Future Living Projects that matched Epicenter City which I made for the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I started by collecting some out-of-date computer and ripped them apart to salvage their insides. After pulling out the insides I washed them and spray painted them using a white primer made by Do It. This off-white turned out to be the same white that I would use for all of the artwork made for the Future Living Projects by having the same color mixed in acrylic latex. I made 2 versions quickly so that I could have documentation for a larger version. The first one is 1.5″x6″x6″ and is made using white museum grade matte board as “sides”. The second version is 11″x22″x22″ and was made with a pre-made insertable pedestal that I had made for an earlier piece called The Shadow (Small Scale Model).

After making these 2 models I started collecting as many computers as I could and was lucky enough to acquire a complete car-full from the Brooklyn Children’s Museum which happened to be getting rid of a large quantity of them. (Thanks Glen!) I ripped all of them apart and brought all of the unused cases to a recycling center to be recycled. I kept all of the small speakers and lights, thinking that I could maybe use them for a future project. As a side note, I’ve often thought about using lights and maybe making my floor pieces interactive but have always decided against it thinking that it creates too much of a “spectacle”. I like the idea of using lights though and think of the time that I visited the large model of the Johnstown Flood at the Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown, Pa when I lived out there. They use lights and sound on the large model landscape to help explain the timeline of the ensuing disaster to great effect.

After I took all of the computers apart I washed out all of the dust and spray painted them white. I wanted the final version to be huge, maybe 12″x12″ in the end but I also wanted it to be variable depending on the space that it was exhibited in. The piece sat unfinished for quite awhile since I couldn’t get anybody to show it. In 2010 one of my roommates moved out and I quickly scrambled to build a large version of Pure City/ Sigma 6 in the empty space. I have a lot of wood lying around my studio from past projects so it wasn’t hard to put some sides together and a base to build on. I built it as quickly as I could and took photos while I had the chance. I’ve never shown it in a gallery space and the parts now sit in boxes on top of my bathroom. I imagined it as part of a larger installation that would include The Architect’s Tomb, Journey Into the Realm of Reason, From Dusk To Dawn, At the Gates of Dawn, New Dawn Fades, the ICB series and the pieces from I Was A Landscape In Your Dream. Below are the 3 versions that I made.

Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 1) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 2) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 3) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 3) Detail by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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A Means to an End (Small Scale Model)

A friend of mine back in Pennsylvania has a virtual junk yard in the back of his house. It’s full of old trucks, rows of old unusable refrigerators and piles upon piles of scrap metal . One day while roaming through his “collectables” I found an old rusty sign. It’s the kind that has wheels on it and is used on the side of the road to advertise local business information. This one was in particularly bad shape and looks like it hadn’t been used for a long time (I attached a photo at the very bottom.) I inquired about it and he told me that he had all of the glass for it, all of the fluorescent bulbs that went in it and the letters for putting information on it. I started thinking that I would like to use it as a sculpture and took my time thinking about what I would want it to say. I decided on I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU which I felt had a couple of different meanings. For me it conjures up religious connotations and is often used in Christianity to refer to someone putting their trust in Jesus. I also like that the word “PUT” is both past tense and present tense depending on how the reader wants to interpret it. I felt that the sculpture was also about economic collapse since the sign had once been brand new and was emblematic of capitalism’s failed promise of prosperity. It was also about a personal relationship that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

I built this small model so I could mock up how it would look for a proposal that I was working on. I made the model out of small plastic modeling parts that I had. I found 2 sets of wheels and a base for it and glued it together. I used balsa wood to make the structure for the sign and glued part of an old clear tape case to it for the face. I printed out I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU on plain white paper, cut it out and taped it to the front. I made it clear so that I could shine a light through the back, creating the illusion that the sign lights up. In the end, I wanted the sculpture to be shown in a field in the middle of nowhere and figured that I would have to devise a way to use solar panels to power the lights. I never made the sculpture but I still have the model.

The title of the piece is from a Joy Division song. Here are the lyrics.

A legacy so far removed,
One day will be improved.
Eternal rights we left behind,
We were the better kind.
Two the same, set free too,
I always looked to you,
I always looked to you,
I always looked to you.

We fought for good, stood side by side,
Our friendship never died.
On stranger waves, the lows and highs,
Our vision touched the sky,
Immortalists with points to prove,
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.

A house somewhere on foreign soil,
Where ageless lovers call,
Is this your goal, your final needs,
Where dogs and vultures eat,
Committed still I turn to go.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
In you. in you. in you.
Put my trust in you, in you.


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At the Gates of Dawn, From Dawn To Dusk and New Dawn Fades

Here are 3 paintings that I made in 2010 and 2011 that are all enamel on canvas. I made the original colored pencil drawings for these back around 2001 and 2002 when I was starting to come up with some ideas for the Future Living Projects. I had originally wanted to design paintings for the future using colors from the 1970’s. The ideas for these colors came from early experiments that I did with pale blue and orange enamel latex paints on the back of plexiglass panels. When the panels were turned over the paint became flat and mimicked the panels that I would see on the sides of schools and other brightly colored buildings from the 1970’s. The panels that I made seemed to exist somewhere between sculpture and painting and I wasn’t sure at the time how these were even art and never completed the project. In the end I made only 2 panels and completed a series of computer generated drawings that illustrated the different colors as they would look when finished. I decided at the time to switch to the designing of paintings instead which provided a more traditional platform for my art making ideas.

I generally don’t like the idea of designing paintings but use the term deliberately. I feel that design is the antithesis of what art should be about. One solution that I had was to have somebody else design my paintings for me; I would essentially become only a worker. This idea appealed to me and I felt that I had reached a new forbidden area of creativity in which the artist would become liberated from design and could be creative solely as a producer of ideas and context. I thought of this as the logical extension of what Marcel Duchamp was achieving in Tu m’ and later John Baldessari for his series Commissioned Paintings which both employed other artists to paint for them. (Is it a coincidence that they both had artists painting pointing fingers?)

So I designed the paintings myself and decided that I wanted them to be long and thin to coincide with an earlier architectural project for Future Living Project’s which imagined a future with thin horizontal buildings. The first painting that I made from the colored pencil drawings was At the Gates of Dawn and was only 12″x48″. I wanted to use glossy enamels for this project since I had never used them before and wanted a change from my usual painting practice. The orange that I mixed for the painting was a color close to what I had originally used for the earlier colored panel project. Here are the final 3 paintings. The first 2′ At the Gates of Dawn and From Dawn To Dusk are 24″x84″ and are stretched over panels. The last one, New Dawn Fades, is 18″x79″.

At the Gates of Dawn by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects From Dusk To Dawn by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects New Dawn Fades by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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The Problem of a Compounded Abstraction (The Field)

Here is a sculpture that I made in 2010 called The Problem of a Compounded Abstraction (The Field). This is another piece that I consider to be a floor sculpture and is 24″x48″x48″. I had the idea for this many years ago but never made it; I wanted to make a landscape with a circle crop in it. I started by looking at pictures of crop circles on the Internet to try and figure out how they look. The most important thing I found were the lines that the tractors make in the fields when they mow; I planned for these in order to make a more realistic looking landscape. I made this the same way I’ve made all the rest, by painting the board green, applying watered down glue and adding mixed railroading foam grass. The only difference was the design of the concentric rings, which I made by cutting circular strips out of sticky paper in order to block out the tan paint that I had painted underneath. I used this same technique for the lines using tape.

The title takes its name from Robert Irwin and the original title is Notes Towards a Model: The Process of a Compounded Abstraction.

From the book Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing Seen:
“He used the phrase “compounded abstraction” to describe the progression that is involved when people try to make sense of the world… In Irwin’s view, sensemaking moves through six stages, beginning with perception (synesthesia of undifferentiated sensations). The undifferentiated perceptions begin to take on meaning in the second stage, conception, where people isolate unnamed zones of focus. In the third stage, form, these zones begin to be named. And in the fourth stage, which Irwin calls formful, the named things are deployed relationally and are arranged in terms of dimensions like hot/cool, loud/soft, up/down. So far there is some fluidity in the process and some possibility of reversing and redoing and relabeling. But at the fifth and sixth stages, people begin to act as if the labels were immanent and discovered rather than extrinsic and imposed. In the fifth stage, which Irwin labels formal, patterns of relations begin to be reified and treated as entities. For example, the formful relation of up/down now gets reified into the more formal relationship of superior/subordinate, master/slave. And in the sixth stage, formalize, the reifications dictate behavior and become taken-for-granted fixtures around which people organize their activities. By the time people formalize their experience they are essentially estranged from direct perceptual experience. At each step in this sequence of compounded abstraction, details get lost, the concrete is replaced with the abstract, and design options get foreclosed.”

The Problem of a Compounded Abstraction (The Field) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects The Problem of a Compounded Abstraction (The Field) Detail by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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I Was A Landscape In Your Dream (Small Scale Model) and Drawings

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.

I Was A Landscape In Your Dream Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living ProjectsI Was A Landscape In Your Dream(Drawing #1) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects I Was A Landscape In Your Dream(Drawing #6) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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Sursum Corda “Lift Up Your Hearts” (Panels 1 and 2)

Sursum Corda “Lift Up Your Hearts” (Panels 1 and 2) is a 2 part piece that I started in 2009 and finished in 2010. Both panels were first painted with special Future Living Projects white acrylic latex and then gridded out into half inch squares with pencil. They are each 36″x48″ in size and made with 6,912 squares totaling 13,824 squares all together. The left panel shows a dish used for receiving information and communications from space and the right panel shows the surface of the moon. I had both images in an archive of images that I’ve wanted to use for a long time. The surface of the moon image I was originally going to paint and use as a backdrop for an Apollo 11 model that I built, but has since been destroyed. For that model, I was interested in exploring ideas that had to do with a sort of reverse propaganda system where information is used by people in order to support conspiratorial ideas. In this case, it was about people who believed that we have never been to the moon, like the movie Capricorn One starring OJ Simpson. I did a lot of research on this phenomenon and was fascinated by how convincing some of the stories were that denied that we had ever been to the moon. The piece consisted of an old Apollo 11 model that looked like it was from the 70’s and a surface of the moon that I made out of plaster of Paris and spray painted grey. At the time I was also working on a series of drawings about space exploration called A History of Space and Communication (1926- ).

The title Sursum Corda “Lift Up Your Hearts” (Panels 1 and 2) is taken from a call and response prayer used in the Christian Church. I thought of the left panel as an image of something that is looking and the right panel as a dull response with no answer. Furthermore, I like the idea of the image being pixilated since it echoes the digitizing of information as it travels through space. Finally, I liked the idea of bringing a religious aspect to a purely scientific situation. This is one of the few pieces that I’ve used for both the Future Living Projects and the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, feeling that it fits into both contexts.

Sursum Corda (%22Lift Up Your Hearts) Part 1 and 2 by Brian Higbee, Future Living Projects and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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All Memories are Traces of Tears and What Is, From the Light Above, In the Flat Field, Unknown Pleasures and What Should Never Be

Here is another pixel painting that I did in 2010 called All Memories are Traces of Tears (Le Muerta ll: for MZ) that I exhibited at the beginning of 2011 at St. Cecilia’s. The canvas is 24″x84″ and was made using 2.5″ squares this time. The piece is based on Holbein’s well known elongated skull from The Ambassadors which shows a distorted skull at the base of the painting which must be viewed at an angle in order to be fully recognizable. I exhibited the painting on a pedestal that I built, laying it flat on top with the front facing the entrance so that the skull could be fully viewed upon entrance into the space. The pedestal was made 4′ high so that the viewer only needed to crouch down a little bit and turn there head at a slight angle in order to grasp the illusion. All of my pixel paintings are a bit rough in their finish upon close inspection. The reason for this is two fold: The first is that I usually have a lot of pixels to paint and the second is that in order for the illusion to work the viewer must be at a distance so it doesn’t make a difference in the end. I also like the difference between the experience of the painting as it appears rough and slightly unfinished up close and smooth and perfect from a distance. All Memories are Traces of Tears is the only pixel painting that I painted twice in order to smooth out its finish and cover the canvas completely with paint. I knew that people would be viewing the painting up close and I wanted the painting to look “more” finished. I also painted the sides of this piece black because the white sides were distracting when I displayed the piece flat and to make it feel more like an object. Putting it on a pedestal flat almost made it feel like a table at a mortuary and reminded me of Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christpainting.

St. Cecilia’s used to be a nunnery but had fallen into disrepair over the years. I was lucky enough to get my own room and decided to install my paintings so that they would be lit with minimal light, giving the room a quiet and still feeling. I thought that painting on the pedestal was very effect as you entered the room, and had an almost “religious” feeling to it. The title All Memories are Traces of Tears was taken from the beginning of Won Kar Wai’s 2046. La Muerta ll is Death in Spanish and there was an original Le Muerta so this one became the second one. MZ is my friend Mirelle whose mother had recently died and wanted to dedicate the piece to her. I titled the installation, which consisted of 6 paintings, What is and What Should Never Be which is actually a title of a Led Zeppelin song. Here is the work as it appears on the wall and again in its final placement on a pedestal.

In 2009 and 2010 I did 2 pieces that I also included in this exhibition. One is called Unknown Pleasures and the other one is called In the Flat Fields and both are named after albums (Joy Division and Bauhaus). I wanted to see how abstract I could make my paintings using pixels while still making them recognizable. These paintings are 12″x12″ and are made with 144 one inch squares. For these I painted directly on the panels in order to experiment with a smoother finish. The illusion doesn’t quite work at this level of abstraction. I had planned on making more, some with color, but decided that I had achieved what I wanted to know and didn’t need to make any more. Ultimately I needed imagery to make my abstractions from but in the end, thought that the idea was a little hokey. Here they are.

All Memories Are Traces of Tears by Brian HigbeeAll Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be (Installation View) by Brian Higbee All Memories Are Traces of Tears from What Is and What Will Never Be by Brian HigbeeIn the Flat Fields by Brian HigbeeUnknown Pleasures by Brian Higbee

I also included 3 paintings of lights in the exhibition. The main one, which can be see in the photo below, is called From the Light Above from 2009 and is 30″x48″. It is an oil painting and I used a simple traditional painting technique in order to achieve a more traditional effect. This involves using a diluted down light coat of Ultramarine Blue under the areas that are going to be black. The theory is that the human eye will “read” the blue that is under the black, creating a rich and slightly tinted hue. I leave the area that is going to be white (the light) the color of the white primer and paint this area with a titanium white acrylic in order to further make the whiteness “pop” in it’s finished state. I mix my own blacks using Sienna Brown and Ultramarine Blue but it’s important to make sure that I’ve mixed enough because if I don’t it will be impossible to mix the same exact color again and the difference will be seen;I would pretty much have to start over. After the black paint is applied I use an old balled up T-shirt to start tamping the paint in order to eliminate the brush strokes. It’s important not to let the T-shirt get wrinkles in it or it’ll start leaving patterns all over the surface. It’s important to keep restretching the t-shirt. It takes a little while to build up the right tack but once the T-shirt is nicely saturated I start at one end of the canvas and use a light rocking motion in order to cover the entire black surface. It’s also important to do this in the right light so that the effects can be properly seen and mistakes can be eliminated before the surface is dry. Because I paint so thinly my paintings tend to dry within a week or two which is a comfort since wet paintings are a pain to keep clean while they’re still drying. This painting is also stretched over a panel that I made, creating a good resistance for the technique that I described above. When the painting is finished and completely dry, I varnish it with a Matte Golden UVS varnish which will protect it from both light and dirt. Here is what I wrote about it:

From the Light Above represents one of mankind’s greatest inventions, light, and delivers it in one of its cheapest and most efficient form, fluorescent.

Here’s the painting.

From the Light Above by Brian Higbee

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