I revived this painting from 1976. I pulled it out of the drawer where it’s been laying for almost 40yrs. I always liked the piece and thought I would come back to it sometime and flesh out the issues it raised. It had some elements of that cool detachment that was popular in some abstract painting at the time as well as some geometric elements from Al Held, Frank Stella and the wonderful Don Sorenson, I knew there was a whole series here but I was working thru these images so fast at the time that I didn’t have a chance to sort of flesh it out. What I mean is I didn’t have time to do any clear cutting in that section of forest because I had to move on up the mountain.
UNTITLED 1976 is on rhoplex soaked Arches 88 I taped the lines off and sealed the tape with a cad yellow; so that shows along the edges of the black lines in a couple of places. The little rectangles have the a tiny black edge that’s almost more subliminal than visible. They’re painted with nacreous white (transparent white mixed with powdered mica) in multiple layers and you can just barely see a little of the color glowing thru but not enough to make out exactly what color it is.
As we see JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS” is not quite as “cool” as UNTITLED 1976 but retains the same color scheme. The grid tape was sealed with a viscous, transparent mix of reds and yellow earth tones so there is a lot of optical action as our cortex tries to rationalize the flecks of color bouncing around behind the black grid. The flying rectangles have a calligraphic donut around them that makes them both separate and stick to the grid. Like the first one from 78 I put down some base color on the rectangles and started over them with some nacreous white and slivers of gold leaf. The gold was laid down as I added layers of white to make a nice foggy effect that might help us imagine we’re looking into a little floating world. The gold leaf glows in oblique light so when we walk by we get some nice flashes of light and a subtle indication of multiple colors embedded in the rectangles.
This one… MEASURE ONCE shows us how to go just a little bit at a time – I added some random color a little bit of blue sky with clouds (because I was looking at some Maynard Dixons) and as you can see I let the color do the talking on top of this little grid. Fake wood grain, clouds, cool pinks, hot pinks, browns, prussian blue. Like in the first one – I work the “seal color” for the tape so we get a little glimpse around the edges. I like that this gives a more solid feel and helps it look like a slab of color instead of thin film of paint.
KEEP DIGGING is another step closer (or farther) to perfection, I don’t know which. I started this with a slap to the face via a little tiny grid of black lines with a tiny bit of color peeking out here and there. I un-taped it and slapped another grid on top. This one had a some red, yellow and green gradients smeared into it and a definite outline like some kind of racing stripe gone crazy. Like in JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS” I taped off the floating rectangles, that were previously set at strategic vertexes of the golden mean grid, and threw down some meaty, colored calligraphy. On top of that some nacreous white embedded with bits of Coloraid paper cut into what I thought were evocative shapes that seem to cut into and through the thick, oscuro of the nacreous white.
As you can see the grid in I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU starts and ends at the edge, nothing lives outside this. The “grid” lines narrow to a point at the edge and the larger windows are completely contained within. This ending at the edge also makes the surface appear to pillow nicely. These little windows as well as the calligraphic shapes, sit within and/or line up to major vertices on the foundational grid. Working on this scale precision is important. The edges are precise to help with the illusion of cutting through or floating miles above. I was thinking of Ed Moses’s crackle paintings when I made the delicate little crackle elements (thanks Ed.) I love fake wood grain and stripes too.